Jamie Hepburn is “absolutely worth” the £32,000 pay boost he receives as minister for independence, Humza Yousaf’s office has said, amid concerns about a "made-up job".

The First Minister’s official spokesman said Mr Hepburn was taking forward the SNP’s manifesto commitment to secure an independence referendum.

It followed the Herald revealing Mr Hepburn has no budget and only one regular member of staff working for him.

Yet as well as his basic MSP's wage of £67,662 in 2023/24, Mr Hepburn is paid an additional £31,854 as a minister.

The top-up is more than the average wage for a full-time job in Scotland of around £27,700.

My Yousaf gave the Cumbernauld & Kilsyth MSP the removing brief after pleading to create the post of minister for independence during the SNP leadership race in the spring.

READ MORE: Questions over £32K pay for Independence Minister's 'made-up job'

He also created a job for Mr Hepburn’s wife, Julie, as the SNP’s “head of strategic delivery”.

The couple had supported Mr Yousaf during the leadership contest.

A recent freedom of information (FoI) response revealed there was “no specific budget allocated to the minister for independence”.

In addition “only one member of staff is currently employed in the Minister’s private office”.

The FoI also reveals Mr Hepburn had just one ministerial meeting outside the government in his first month in office, receiving a briefing on attitudes to the UK's democratic system from a political scientist based at University College London.

In a media briefing at Holyrood, Mr Yousaf’s spokesman was asked what Mr Hepburn was doing to earn his £32,000 when his operation appeared to be “one man and a desk”.

The First Minister’s spokesman said: “He's taking forward, across Government work on the independence prospectus. 

“The FoI response referred to his private office, to people working directly for him. But as you know there’s a much wider civil service, of people working on constitutional matters. 

“There's not like one person working on independence in the government.”

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Asked if Mr Hepburn was worth it, the spokesman said: “He's absolutely worth it. He’s taking forward a manifesto commitment that the Government won an election on.” 

The Scottish Tories said Mr Yousaf was “squandering public funds on a ministerial salary to stir up constitutional division”.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats said: “It looks like Jamie Hepburn is doing a made-up job designed to convince nationalist activists that progress is being made."