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Salmond under scrutiny for costly dinners
Labour MSP claims Salmond entertained SNP donors at the cost of the taxpayer
Elisabeth Evans
Monday, 19 November, 2007 | 00:04
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Alex Salmond SNP nichola sturgeon
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond was accused last week of entertaining wealthy SNP backers at Bute House at the expense of the taxpayer.

A meal held in honour of Sir Sean Connery, a patron of the party, at the state-funded residence came to a total cost of £1,445.

Present at the meal were businessmen Sir Tom Farmer and Brian Souter, who have together donated £600,000 to the successful election bid in addition to Sir George Matthewson, the chairman of the Scottish Government's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), and Crawford Beveridge, the former chief executive of Scottish Enterprise, member of the CEA and SNP donor.

Labour MSP, Lord George Foulkes, who appealed the original decision not to publish the list of those present told The Scotsman that: “The SNP's top five donors, worth over £750,000 to Alex Salmond in the last year alone, enjoyed the lavish hospitality at Bute House at the expense of the taxpayer and it's just not on."

He added: "No ifs, no buts, the evidence is clear - this was an SNP shindig at the expense of the taxpayer and they must now pay the money back.

"After cash for access, ministers' share portfolios and now dosh for dinners, the SNP face serious questions about their integrity."

Non-SNP supporters who attended the event included Rangers chairman David Murray and Alex Ferguson, the Tory Presiding Officer.

A spokesman for the First Minister has said: "The First Minister is absolutely satisfied that the dinner was an official government expense and it was an appropriate use of resources."

Despite the original refusal to reveal the names of those who attended, a spokesman said that: “We are keen to be transparent with dinners hosted by the Scottish Government and other such events and we are also keen to put in place a system that works. The releasing of these names is the start of that system coming into effect."

Since becoming the residence of the First Minister, Bute House has been the place of numerous functions with Jack McConnell’s meals costing in the region of £700 to £900.

The house has now been adopted by Alex Salmond as his own Edinburgh base.
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