Alex Salmond's climate-change crusade set to include 1,700-mile flight to paradise isles

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ALEX Salmond has come under fire over plans to travel to the Maldives as part of a climate change fact-finding mission.

The First Minister wants to call in at the islands in the Indian Ocean on his way to the Commonwealth Games in October.

The proposal comes after Mr Salmond signed an agreement with the government of the Maldives to help combat global warming at the recent climate change summit in Copenhagen.

The island is under threat of being submerged because of rising sea levels caused by carbon emissions. Recently, its president Mohamed Nasheed held a cabinet meeting under the sea to highlight the problem.

But as well as the potential cost, which could be as much as 3,800 per person in air fares for Mr Salmond and his normal entourage of two to five staff, the trip has been criticised for damaging the environment rather than saving it.

According to a written answer in parliament, the First Minister proposes to go to the Maldives on his way to or from the Games in Delhi.

However, the necessary detour of 1,700 miles means that Mr Salmond would work up a massive carbon footprint of 1.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said the idea was typical of a First Minister who talks about reducing carbon emissions but fails to back it up with actions.

"Mohamed Nasheed is an inspiring speaker on climate change, but he's probably heard more than enough empty rhetoric from the likes of Alex Salmond," he said.

"He and his ministers returned from the Copenhagen climate summit to announce the carbon-busting Aberdeen bypass the very next day, a road that will hugely increase carbon emissions.

"The Maldives is already disappearing under the waves as a result of climate change, and I doubt that the First Minister will return with more than a suntan to show the people of Scotland."

Others suggested that the First Minister was guilty of "international grandstanding".

Conservative MSP Gavin Brown said: "Alex Salmond needs to get on with the job he is elected to do – being the First Minister of a devolved Scotland.

"As ever, the First Minister decided it had to be all about Alex and not the people of Scotland. Last year, he tried to use his trip to Copenhagen at the taxpayers' expense to boost his own ego and the SNP's falling poll ratings rather than as a serious attempt to tackle climate change."

Dumfries and Galloway Labour MP Russell Brown has written to Mr Salmond to provide him with a dossier on climate change in the Maldives so that he can save the cost of a journey. He said: "This information is well documented and published by the Maldivian ministry of housing, transport and environment."

A spokesman for Mr Salmond said that no decision had been taken yet over whether he will definitely travel to the Maldives.

He emphasised that the written answer from transport and climate change minister Stewart Stevenson was that the First Minister "hopes" that he will be able to visit and not that he definitely will.

The Scottish Government also refused to give any further detail on how many staff might accompany Mr Salmond on any trip to the island resort in October.

On tackling climate change, Mr Stevenson added: "The action taken by both the Maldives and Scotland in terms of legislation exemplifies the types of measures necessary to meet the serious threats posed."