Labour demand SNP ministers justify expenses

Mr Yousaf accused Labour of a 'silly boomerang attack'.  Picture: John Devlin
Mr Yousaf accused Labour of a 'silly boomerang attack'. Picture: John Devlin
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GOVERNMENT ministers have been accused of leading a “luxury lifestyle” and staying in five star hotels during foreign trips.

Scottish Labour said SNP ministers have stayed at some of the world’s top hotels and called on them to “justify this spending”.

The party obtained documents using Freedom of Information laws and said Humza Yousaf - the minister for Europe and International Development - stayed at the Ritz Carlton in Qatar last year which cost almost £1,400.

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But a spokesman for Mr Yousaf accused Labour of a “silly boomerang attack” and said Gordon Brown had stayed at the same hotel at a conference they both attended in Doha.

Labour also pointed to trips carried out by Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop and another by environment minister Paul Wheelhouse.

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James Kelly, Labour’s Scottish Parliament Business Manager, said: “When SNP ministers travel abroad, they are staying at some of the world’s top hotels. There is absolutely no justification for staying in luxury hotels on private islands while on Government business.

“Between April and September this year, 15,000 children in Scotland had to rely on foodbanks for a decent meal. When so many people are struggling, the fact that SNP ministers are spending taxpayers’ money on luxury hotels for themselves and their staff is simply unacceptable.

“Some in particular, such as Humza Yousaf, need to look again and ask how they can justify this spending.

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“On many of these trips, there is no record in the list of Ministerial Engagements of any meetings that took place. The SNP Government has to end their luxury lifestyle and commit to publishing all meetings that took place during these trips.”

A spokesman for Mr Yousaf said: “This is a silly boomerang attack by the Labour party since Gordon Brown stayed in the same hotel as Mr Yousaf at the conference they attended in Doha - as did UK and other international Ministers.

“It is also a short-sighted attack since the purpose of these visits is to promote jobs and investment in Scotland. During his visit to the Gulf States, Humza Yousaf led a delegation of 40 Scottish companies promoting our expertise in oil and gas.

“It is engagement like this which has helped Scotland’s exports to the Middle East region increase by a remarkable 82% in one year - representing the strongest growth of any global market.”

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SNP MSP Sandra White added: “Scottish Labour need to be careful they practice what they preach, given their new leader was mired in the Westminster expenses scandal.

“In 2012, it was revealed that he was letting out a London property at the same time as claiming public money to rent in the city.

“And under his watch as Scottish Secretary, the salary bill in his department rose from £1.9m to £2.7m in the space of a few years while renovations to his Dover House office are reported to have cost taxpayers £1.4m.

“As well as this, his blog on the Scotland Office website cost taxpayers £18,000 in one year - while the rest of the country was gripped by the banking crisis.”

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