ALISTER Jack has said no civil servants in Scotland should take orders from Humza Yousaf’s new minister for independence. 

The Scottish Secretary said he was concerned about the "constitutional propriety" of Jamie Hepburn’s role given the Supreme Court’s ruling last year that the Scottish Government does not have powers to hold even an advisory referendum.

However, the SNP-Green administration rubbished the Tory's plea, insisting there was "a democratic mandate for an independence referendum."

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf names new 'minister for independence'

The spat comes as thousands of pro-independence supporters are expected to arrive in Glasgow on Saturday for a pro-independence rally timed to clash with the coronation. 

Speakers are set to include former SNP leadership hopefuls Kate Forbes and Ash Regan, and former first minister Alex Salmond.

Mr Yousaf will be in Westminster to see the King crowned.  

The SNP leader appointed Mr Hepburn to the £98,000 a year post in his first week in office and said the MSP for Cumbernauld and Kilysth would report directly to him and operate as a backroom ‘fixer’, coordinating work on independence across the administration.

That prompted Labour peer George Foulkes to write to Chancellor Jeremey Hunt asking about the legality of taxpayer's money being used to fund the role. 

Responding on behalf of the government, Mr Jack said: "The UK Government has been clear that we aim to work constructively with the new First Minister on the issues that matter to people and businesses in Scotland.

"I was pleased that during his acceptance speech, the First Minister made clear he also wants to work together with the UK Government.

"That is what people in Scotland rightly expect.

"However, I am concerned at the First Minister’s decision to appoint a Minister for Independence.

"This decision is completely out of step with the real priorities of the public, which include continuing to tackle the cost of living, growing Scotland’s economy, tackling NHS waiting lists, ensuring our energy security and improving transport links.

"In my role as Secretary of State for Scotland I wrote to the Cabinet Secretary and asked him firstly to advise on the constitutional propriety of appointing this ministerial role in light of United Kingdom Supreme Court's ruling of 23 November 2022, and secondly requested assurance that no UK civil servant will be engaged in this new department. 

"I strongly believe in the need to uphold the reputation and impartiality of the civil service in Scotland and I understand that this is a matter for the Scottish Government Permanent Secretary in the first instance and my political colleagues have written to him on this matter."

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He added: "As the UK moves on from the divisive tenure of the previous First Minister, I hope that the new First Minister will govern for the whole of Scotland and work with the UK Government to make life better for people in Scotland.

The new role was first mooted by Mr Yousaf after his leadership contest rival Kate Forbes suggested the responsibility for building the prospectus for independence be taken away from the civil service.

Mr Yousaf said: "Why on Earth would you not use the machinery of government to fund the cause?”

He then said he was "quite keen to have a Cabinet Secretary not just for the constitution – call it for advancing independence and the constitution.”

However, Mr Hepburn will not sit in Cabinet, and Angus Robertson keeps the Constitution brief.

Lord Foulkes praised Mr Jack's "hard-line" response.

The Cumnock baron told the paper: "He's basically saying they have got to scrap it, it's really very impressive and very powerful. If he doesn't have civil service support then the role is basically a dead duck.

"We would be paying someone £100,000 a year to do nothing. Even if he had a team of civil servants he couldn't do anything but without them it's finished.

"I'm encouraged that Alister Jack has taken this hard line because I believe that this is improper if not illegal expenditure and now that such a strong statement has been made and it's absolutely clear the role cannot be supported, the First Minister must immediately accept this and cancel the appointment."

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A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The First Minister appointed a Ministerial team that reflects the priorities he will pursue in government – including tackling child poverty, improving public services, building a fairer, greener economy, and giving people the information about devolution and independence that they need to make an informed choice about Scotland's constitutional future.

"As Ministers have outlined to the Scottish Parliament, there is a democratic mandate for an independence referendum.

"The Scottish Government remains ready to engage with the UK Government to give people in Scotland the right to choose their constitutional future in line with the result of the 2021 Scottish Parliament election which returned a clear majority in favour of a referendum."