THE First Minister has been criticised for entertaining a major SNP donor and his wife at a luxury lunch last summer at his official residence.
Businessman Ian Watson has given around £140,000 to the party over the past seven years while his wife has also contributed £12,500.
Labour has accused Alex Salmond of abusing his position in the same way that Prime Minister David Cameron had by inviting Tory donors for meals at his country residence at Chequers.
But the First Minister insisted yesterday that private meals attended by party donors at his Bute House residence are not linked to party fundraising. A spokesman for Salmond said criticism was unfounded, insisting that if SNP supporters were excluded from invitations, that would exclude much of the Scottish population.
Salmond’s guests have been logged on an official register. Also in attendance at the lunch attended by the Watsons, held on 1 July last year to mark the opening of the Scottish Parliament’s fourth term, were Anne and Clive Anderson, owners of Champney Inn – a restaurant near his home town of Linlithgow often frequented by Salmond. Labour’s parliamentary business manager Paul Martin said: “It appears that Alex Salmond has abused his office in exactly the same way as David Cameron abused his.
“The First Minister has used public facilities paid for by the taxpayer to entertain donors to the SNP. From chumming up to Rupert Murdoch to abusing his office to entertain donors, Alex Salmond seems to be embracing every aspect of political sleaze which tarnishes Westminster’s reputation.”
Salmond also came under fire last week when it emerged that Euromillions winners Colin and Christine Weir were invited to Bute House in September last year. Four days later, their £1 million donation to the SNP was officially registered.
Last week, Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband were forced to publish lists of donors who they had invited to their private homes.
Cameron released details of 12 Tory fundraisers who had dinner at Downing Street and five who ate with him at Chequers as the result of the furore sparked by Conservative co-treasurer Peter Cruddas when he told undercover reporters that a donation of £250,000 or more could secure them an invitation to meet the leader.
A spokesman for Salmond said that any meals involving party donors were “after official events” and were not specifically aimed at fundraising.
“No private dining for donors takes place at Bute House, never has under this administration, and never will,” he said. “These functions are all in the public domain.”