Salmond to be brought before MSPs to explain actions over Trump plan
ALEX Salmond is set to be summoned before a Holyrood committee in the new year to explain his role in the controversy over Donald Trump's £1 billion golf development.
The other three political parties are preparing to gang up on the First Minister, causing him maximum discomfort.
The Tories say they will move tomorrow to have the Scottish Government's actions over the Trump plan examined by a Holyrood committee, with Mr Salmond called to give evidence. Labour and the Liberal Democrats are backing that idea.
The First Minister last night welcomed the move as an opportunity to explain he had done nothing wrong.
But Mr Trump is said to be increasingly annoyed at the "meddling" of politicians, warning the "malicious attacks" could scupper the project, in Aberdeenshire, once and for all.
The First Minister and the Scottish Government have come under fire for holding meetings with Mr Trump's representatives just days before the US tycoon's application was "called in" by ministers.
Last week, it emerged that not only Mr Salmond but also the Scottish Government's chief planner, Jim McKinnon, had met representatives of the Trump organisation. And John Swinney, the finance secretary, who will take the final decision on the plan, visited a Trump resort in the US days before calling in the application.
Yesterday, Nicol Stephen, the Liberal Democrat leader, moved that an independent inquiry should take place. However, amid fears it could slow the planning process to such an extent Mr Trump would go elsewhere, this failed to get the backing of MSPs from other parties.
So it is more likely that the matter will be investigated by the local government and communities committee – a process that could be wrapped up much more quickly.
David McLetchie, the Scottish Tories' chief whip and business manager, suggested that was the best way forward.
He said: "Scottish Conservatives believe the most appropriate body to examine the conduct, handling and 'calling in' of this planning application by the Scottish Government is the parliament's local government and communities committee.
"Accordingly, when the committee meets on Wednesday, I will propose that we take evidence on the role played to date by the Scottish Government in relation to this application."
Because there is one Tory, one Liberal Democrat, three Labour members and three SNP MSPs on the committee, Mr McLetchie's motion is likely to pass.
Last night, the Liberal Democrats were still hoping for an independent inquiry.
However, a spokesman admitted such a move was unlikely to get support from other parties and said they would be willing to support anything that was based on forcing the government to "answer questions they have so far failed to answer".
He went on: "A speedy inquiry by a parliamentary committee, based on a cross-party consensus, achieves the degree of openness and transparency we have been demanding."
Labour said it was also willing to consider the Tory proposal.
A spokesman said: "The SNP have got some serious questions to answer over their handling of the Trump planning application. "
Even Mr Salmond supported an inquiry by the committee.
A spokesman described the idea as "sensible" and said: "The First Minister has previously said he is very open and available to parliamentary committees, and is perfectly relaxed with this, as ministers and civil servants have conducted themselves totally correctly throughout."
However, a spokeswoman for Mr Trump said the politicians were in danger of jeopardising the whole project.
She said: "The Trump Organisation is dismayed at the political attacks on both Alex Salmond and Jim McKinnon, who acted with absolute probity and discretion, as did the Trump Organisation's managers.
"These attacks are more than misguided; they are malicious, inaccurate and potentially destructive and they threaten to once again endanger a 1 billion project which has the overwhelming backing of the North-east of Scotland."
Brian Adam, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen North, said politicians should be concentrating on economic development rather than slowing down the planning process with "false and irresponsible charges".
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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