Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie accused Alex Salmond of using taxpayer's money to fund SNP propaganda, during first minister's question time, on 25 March 2010.
Ms Goldie told MSPs that 40% of the government's annual advertising budget of £10m will be spent this month, with the general election looming.
She said the spending of £4m in the run up to the election "reeks more of taxpayer-funded SNP propaganda than the provision of essential public information".
Mr Salmond said much of the money went on public information advice on dealing with the impact of cold weather and that government advertising campaigns provide "vital public information" about the services of the government.
Earlier Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray raised the subject of the budget, asking what Alex Salmond would do with the extra £82m for Scotland announced by Alistair Darling in his Budget statement.
The first minister insisted the analysis showed that even when the extra money for Scotland was taken into account, the Scottish department expenditure limit would be 1.3% lower in real terms.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott questioned Mr Salmond on the government's pay policy, asking whether he would back Liberal Democrat amendments to the Public Service Reform Bill to stop quango bosses taking thousands of pounds in bonuses.
The first minister said the amendments could put the entire bill in jeopardy and could well be illegal.