TOM Hunter, the multi-millionaire Scottish entrepreneur and philanthropist, has pledged to match every penny raised by Band Aid 20’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? single, up to a maximum of £7 million.
During a meeting in London yesterday with Sir Bob Geldolf, Mr Hunter agreed to support the campaign.
It is the single biggest donation that Band Aid has received in its 20-year history. Sir Bob said that to say he was delighted would be "the understatement of 2004".
Mr Hunter said he was moved to act by a television documentary which suggested that things had barely improved since 1984, the year when Band Aid first topped the UK charts.
"We do have a real chance to eradicate world poverty in our lifetime," he told The Scotsman. "We can make a difference and with the G8 meeting in Gleneagles next year, we need to let the world know the situation needs to change.
"I’d been watching a documentary at home and what was striking for me was how little things had actually changed. Everyone who works there and the people behind the first Band Aid all worked with the best intentions and the current plans are very good, but we all need to do our bit.
"So please, I am appealing to all Scotsman readers to go out and buy the DVD or single because for every 10 spent on the DVD or 4 for the single, we’ll match it."
Mr Hunter’s donation follows the 105 million he gave to charity last year - one-fifth of his fortune. This was used to set up the Hunter Foundation, which encourages young people in Scotland to be entrepreneurial.
The meeting with Sir Bob Geldolf followed discussions with the Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral scriptwriter Richard Curtis, who is the driving force behind the Make Poverty History campaign.
"When I met Richard I asked him what we could do to help, and with my team we thought up the idea of matching the Band Aid money.
Richard was bowled over and said he would get Bob to phone me. We met up, agreed the funding ... and off we go," said Mr Hunter.
The new version of the Band Aid song went straight in at number one in the UK singles chart and the charity record is tipped to be this year’s Christmas number one. The money raised will be used to fight hunger in Africa.
It features vocals from Coldplay’s Chris Martin, U2’s Bono, Kylie Minogue, Dido, Robbie Williams and the Sugababes. The charity single is tipped to shift 800,000 copies by Sunday when the Christmas number one is announced, and is currently outselling the whole of the top 20 combined.
The original version - which was the Christmas number one in 1984 - sold 750,000 copies in its first week and 3.5 million in total.
Mr Hunter said: "Through the Hunter Foundation we are making a small contribution to an absolutely massive problem and asking others to join this campaign.
"A world dominated by those who have, at the sufferance of those who have not, is a recipe for unparalleled disaster.
"This cycle fuelled by third- world debt, lack of sufficient aid and unfair trade laws must be broken. Everyone can make a difference to this issue so I would urge absolutely everyone to log on and register at www.makepovertyhistory.org and send a message to the G8 that you support them in dropping third-world debt, doubling aid budgets and changing trade laws."
Proceeds from the sales of the single, and Mr Hunter’s contribution, will go towards aid relief in Africa in countries such as Ethiopia and Sudan.
The money raised will also be used to help combat HIV and AIDS across the continent.