Anxious taxpayers alarmed at the cost of the Holyrood parliament building, which has grown from an initial estimate of £45m to £230m, are now questioning the wage bill for the an army of special advisers to the Scottish Executive.
A written parliamentary question from David McLetchie MSP, the Scottish Conservative leader, has revealed that the cost of the First Minister's five-strong team of publicists has more than trebled within the past two years.
The First Minister, Henry McLeish, now spends £305,008 on spin doctors.
The publicists include Peter MacMahon, the chief spokesman and a former political editor of The Scotsman. There is also Tom Little, the deputy, and Bill Heaney, who has responsibility for the local press. Fiona Hamilton and Andy Rowe arrived from Millbank in London to "inject professionalism". The total annual bill for 11 advisers is £758,007.
Roseanna Cunningham, the deputy leader of the Scottish National Party, said: "The Executive's answer to policies that aren't working is to bring out more advisers to cover up. It's disgraceful Labour should waste so much on propaganda."
Yesterday, a spokesman for the Executive said that advisers were an established part of government and needed to assist ministers.
Mr McLetchie responded by calling for the cost of government in Scotland to be cut to save taxpayers' money.