The Scottish Government spent almost £2million on special advisers (Spads) in Nicola Sturgeon's last year as first minister, it has been revealed.

Outlay on the aides rose by nearly £500,000 between 2021-22 and 2022-23, and doubled during Ms Sturgeon's reign to the highest level under devolution.

The Tories branded the increase "shameful", while Scottish Labour called it "morally indefensible".

The BBC says the first minister is responsible for the appointment of all Spads, who are temporary civil servants unbound by neutrality rules.

In response to a question from SNP MSP Rona Mackay, Parliamentary Business Minister George Adam said the cost of 18 Spads employed in 2022-23 was £1,909,843. Two of the aides were paid more than £100,000, while five were in the £74,650 to £95,019 pay bracket. A further 10 cost between £58,946 and £72,441, while one Spad was in the lowest bracket of £53,915 to £56,428.

By comparison, an MSP's salary is £67,662, while a Scottish Government minister is paid £99,516.

More special advisers

In Ms Sturgeon's first full year as first minister, 2014-15, the government spent £952,865 on 14 special advisers.

Her successor Humza Yousaf is yet to finalise his selections.

In 2021-22, the spend on a total of 18 Spads was £1,434,693.

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy MSP said: "People will be appalled that the cost of employing SNP spin doctors has surged by a third in the space of a year, to a whopping £2million of taxpayers' cash."

Scottish Labour finance spokesperson Michael Marra accused the government of attempting to "bury bad news" ahead of the bank holiday weekend by releasing the information on Friday.

"At a time when thousands of Scots are struggling to make ends meet and parents are being forced to skip meals, the fact that the bill for government Spads is soaring is morally indefensible," she said.

Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie added: "These eye-watering sums would be far better spent on battling the crisis in our NHS, cleaning up the sewage in our rivers and beaches and getting islanders the ferries that have never arrived.

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