ALEX Salmond spent almost £100,000 of taxpayers’ money entertaining football bosses, ambassadors and film executives at Edinburgh Castle.
The First Minister’s use of the venue to host lavish events for dignitaries was revealed under freedom of information laws following a year-long battle between Scotland on Sunday and the government over the release of the expenditure.
Salmond attended and spoke at 13 Scottish Government events at Edinburgh Castle in just under two years at a cost of more than £95,000, it emerged last night.
Edinburgh Castle did not charge the government a “facility fee” to use the venue. The bills covered the cost of meals and entertainment.
The most expensive night out at Edinburgh Castle was a dinner hosted by Salmond to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of explorer and missionary Dr David Livingstone at a cost of £15,380.07 to the public purse.
Salmond also ran up a bill of £6,314.98 when he hosted a reception for the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Other events included the World Fisheries Congress, which cost taxpayers £6,116.97, and an International Year of Co-operatives event, which cost £6,468.92.
One of the biggest expenditures was £10,894.99 for a European Football League dinner, where £7,266.30 was spent on catering and £660 on shuttle buses for guests, as well as £384 on flowers.
Another event called Welcome to the Home of the Brave, held at the castle to promote Scotland as a tourist destination following the release of the Disney animated movie Brave, was fronted by Salmond and cost £10,600.47.
A total of £7,697.08 was spent on catering for the dinner’s guests, who included film executives and others from the entertainment industry.
The First Minister also hosted an Arab Ambassadors reception and dinner at the castle at a cost of £7,824.46, including £3,223.46 on food and drink as well as £2,120 on entertaining the guests.
There was also £7,577.07 spent on an event for officials from the Hong Kong government and its then chief executive Donald Tsang.
The Scottish Government had repeatedly refused to release details of the expenditure to Scotland on Sunday, with officials saying the details of how the public money had been spent was “not held centrally”.
The original freedom of information request for Salmond’s use of the castle was made by Scotland on Sunday on 3 April, 2013.
However, following the intervention of the Scottish Information Commissioner, the government released a log of Salmond’s use of Edinburgh Castle at the taxpayers’s expense between June 2011 and March 2013.
Last night, Holyrood’s economy committee chairman Murdo Fraser called on Salmond to pick smaller and less expensive venues.
He said: “We have known for a long time that Alex Salmond loves being the king of the castle. But perhaps in the future he should reflect on how this all comes with a hefty price tag for the people of Scotland to pick up.”
In a statement the Scottish Government said: “The Scottish Government uses Edinburgh Castle, which incurs no facility fee, to host a range of events to conduct official business, showcase Scotland and recognise and celebrate worthy causes.
“The average cost per event incurred by the Scottish Government is in line with the average costs, ranging from £5,591 to £11,475, incurred by the previous administration.”