Big cheese is among freebies given to Capital's big cheeses

THEY don't exactly provide the impression that Edinburgh's political elite live a life of glitz and glamour.

But a copy of Maw Broon's Cookbook, a tie celebrating the Declaration of Arbroath, two low-energy lightbulbs and a round of cheese are among the gifts received by the Capital's councillors over the last two years.

The value of the gifts and hospitality lavished on the city's 58 councillors over the 2008-9 and 2009-10 financial years total almost 8,000 – slightly less than in previous years.

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A number of councillors managed to get prime tickets for hospitality at top events, including football matches, race days, theatre performances, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the ballet.

But deputy council leader Steve Cardownie insisted that councillors in the city do not actively seek out free dinners and tickets.

"I do not believe that any councillor of any party in the city is in it for the money," the SNP group leader said. "And everything is registered and declared, as it should be.

"A lot of councillors would probably rather be at home with their families than out at some of these dinners.

"I know I would sometimes rather sit at home with a chipsteak supper. It's not something that councillors seek out; it's more something they need to go to.

"I don't think there's any largesse in the council when it comes to that."

The councillor who received the most hospitality was finance leader Phil Wheeler.

The experienced Liberal Democrat councillor, a former transport leader, declared a series of meals and gifts worth an estimated value of 1,097.

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After one of his most recent dinners – hosted by investment management firm Baillie Gifford just last week – he took home two whisky glasses and a copy of Maw Broon's Cookbook.

Among the firms and bodies to invite him to dinner in the last year have been the Danish Cultural Institute, the Scottish Property Federation, Microsoft, Norwegian county council Nordland Fylkskommune and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.

Meals are only included if they total more than 25 and are provided by firms as hospitality. Meals provided when councillors are working, such as if they present a speech, are not included.

While most of the haul of gifts and hospitality were down to dinners and lunches, many of the city's councillors received a range of more unusual gifts.

Nationalist councillor and economic development leader Tom Buchanan was sent a tie celebrating the Declaration of Arbroath from former Scotland rugby international Norrie Rowan.

And Paul Edie received a tie and two low-energy lightbulbs courtesy of the Milton Lunch Club.

Culture and sport leader Deidre Brock received a round of cheese – which she valued at 30 – from the Basque Folk and Cultural Festival Representatives, as well as a scale model of a piece of Paolozzi art from the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop.

Councillor Andrew Burns, leader of the Labour group on the council, told the Evening News: "It is crucial that elected members of all levels, including councillors, have to declare hospitality and gifts. It is important particularly when it comes to councillors who deal with planning matters. Members of the public have to be able to see that they are acting impartially."