Gala dinner scrapped in wake of calls for identity of cash donor

A CONTROVERSIAL new gala dinner, billed as Scotland's answer to the Lord Major's Banquet in London, has been shelved.

An un-named benefactor paid the full 40,000 cost of the initial Lord Provost's banquet in Edinburgh amid protests that the donor may have had secret links with the local authority.

Now the council has postponed the follow-up event, which was scheduled to take place in April, in the wake of demands to name last year's mystery donor.

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Although he or she is not involved this year, the council is thought to be in negotiations with a number of backers linked to the individual who bankrolled the first dinner over the prospect of staging another event.

However, council leader Jenny Dawe, who spoke at the first event, said there was no question of any taxpayers' money being used to help stage the event again, but insisted the council was unlikely to identify any future donors.

Former Irish premier Bertie Ahern and First Minister Alex Salmond were lined up for the first event, although Mr Salmond later pulled out after being invited to Gordon Brown's home for dinner. Author Ian Rankin and the city's poet laureate Ron Butlin were among the entertainers at the event, which raised more than 22,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust.

It was attended by some 300 guests at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

Ms Dawe said: "The event definitely won't be happening in April, although we are hoping there will be another one.

"The individual who paid for the event last year does not want to be involved again, although they have encouraged a couple of their friends to contribute to another event and we are speaking to them at the moment.

"I don't see any problem with this kind of thing if people don't want to be identified. There is no question of anyone being able to pay to influence any of the council's policies or decisions."

Freedom of Information requests were made to the council to try to find out the identity of last year's donor. These were turned down by the council on the grounds that releasing the details "would constitute a breach of confidence actionable by the person who provided it".