DCSIMG

Bute House Lottery winners party leaves Alex Salmond facing inquiry

Chris and Colin Weir: Had tea with Alex Salmond. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Chris and Colin Weir: Had tea with Alex Salmond. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

  • by TOM PETERKIN
 

ALEX Salmond is facing an investigation from an independent standards watchdog after it emerged the First Minister invited the SNP’s biggest ever donors – EuroMillions winners – to a tea party at his official residence.

Labour has asked former Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini to look into the meeting between Mr Salmond and Chris and Colin Weir, held at Bute House four days before their £1 million donation was registered with the Electoral Commission.

The meeting came two months after the pair won £161 million on the EuroMillions draw in July last year.

Dame Angiolini, an independent advisers on the ministerial code, was lettered by Paul Martin, Labour’s parliamentary business manager.

Mr Martin said: “This would appear to be an abuse of the ministerial conduct and has to be investigated by the independent advisers.

“It is not befitting of someone holding the office of First Minister to chase after lottery winners and hold tea parties for them at his official residence in a bid to secure donors for his separation campaign.”

Yesterday, Mr Salmond’s spokesman denied there was anything inappropriate about the meeting and said the Weirs’ donation was not mentioned at the tea party on 9 September last year, which was simply “an opportunity for old friends to meet up over a cup of tea”.

His spokesman argued Bute House is Mr Salmond’s residence as well as a Scottish Government office and the meeting was private.

The spokesman said the tea party did not constitute an official event, so did not require to be registered on the official list of Bute House guests published on the government’s website.

But Mr Martin asked Dame Angiolini to examine whether there had been a breach of the Ministerial Code, which states that ministers must ensure there is no conflict between their public duties and private interests.

Mr Martin also pointed to the section of the code that states ministers must not use public resources for party political purposes and that formal meetings between Scottish Government members and outside interest groups should be recorded.

He also listed the part of the code, which says: “Government property should not generally be used for constituency work or party activities. A particular exception is recognised where a building has been designated as the First Minister’s official residence. Where ministers host party or personal events in the First Minister’s official residence, it should be at their own or at party expense, with no cost falling on the public purse.”

The Weirs come from Largs in Ayrshire. Mr Weir is a long-time SNP supporter and had worked on party publicity with Mr Salmond in the 1980s.

Yesterday, the First Minister’s spokesman said it was “absurd and ridiculous” to compare the Weirs’ visit with the “cash for access” scandal involving David Cameron and hosting private dinners for donors at Chequers and Downing Street.

The spokesman added: “I did not require a conversation with Alex Salmond to urge Mr and Mrs Weir to support a party that they have been supporting all their lives.”

 

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