HUMZA Yousaf’s top official is set to be quizzed by MSPs today on Scottish Secretary Alister Jack’s suggestion that civil servants should not be working on independence plans.

Permanent Secretary John-Paul Marks will give evidence in back-to-back sessions at Holyrood on the running of the Scottish Government.

The Finance and Public Administration Committee will first question him and other officials as part of its inquiry into effective Scottish Government decision-making.

It has already heard from former ministers, advisers and officials that decision-making was “unclear and unstructured” and affected by Scotland’s “binary” political culture.

The Committee will then question Mr Marks on the broader issue of “public administration in government”, in which Mr Jack’s idea is likely to feature.

The Scottish Secretary recently said he was “concerned” at Mr Yousaf’s decision to appoint a dedicated minister for independence - Jamie Hepburn - upon becoming First Minister.

Mr Jack asked the UK Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to look at the “constitutional propriety” of the appointment, given the UK Supreme Court ruled last year that Holyrood does not have the power to stage a second independence referendum without Westminster’s consent.

In addition, Mr Jack “requested assurance that no civil servant will be engaged in this new department”, saying it was vital to uphold the “impartiality of the civil service in Scotland”.

He said it was “a matter for the Scottish Government Permanent Secretary in the first instance" and his political colleagues had written to him about it.

Mr Hepburn later said Mr Jack should “get over it” and civil servants were simply working to the manifesto agenda of the democratically elected Scottish Government.

He told the Holyrood Weekly Podcast that Mr Jack was indulging in “sabre-rattling”.

He said: “At the end of the day, if he thinks there shouldn't be a minister for independence, then the quid pro quo would be you'd expect the UK Government to abolish their Union Unit.

“I'm not expecting that they're going to do that. So he shouldn't be expecting that the Scottish Government's going to ditch independence anytime soon. Frankly, I'm not going anywhere.”

Mr Hepburn last week said the next paper in the Government's rolling prospectus for independence - the last instalment appeared in Ocotber - would appear in the coming weeks.

The Finance Committee is also likely to examine the Permanent Secretary’s “progress against ambitions” since starting in his role in January last year.

His duties include overseeing more than 7,000 civil servants, acting as the principal policy adviser to the First Minister, being Secretary to the Scottish Cabinet and “principal accountable officer” for the Scottish Government’s £50billion-a-year budget. 

Mr Marks could also be asked about Mr Yousaf’s recent commitment to check if the findings of a secret probe into whether Fergus Ewing bullied staff while an SNP minister can be published.

The FM said he would be “happy” to double-check if there was any way around the legal obstacles cited by Nicola Sturgeon last year when she refused to release it.