Nicola Sturgeon rejects claim she failed to register lobbying meeting

Nicola Sturgeon has rejected a claim she was lobbied by an SNP donor over a £650m housing development and then failed to record the meeting.

Claims of cronyism have been rejected by Nicola Sturgeon.

According to the revelations made in the Sunday Mail, senior staff from Springfield Property Ltd met with the First Minister in January 2019 while it was seeking to gain planning permission for a 3000-home development in Stirlingshire. The scheme was granted permission later that year.

The firm, owned by Sandy Adam who donated £100,000 to the SNP between 2015 and 2016, has recorded the meeting in the official lobbying register but there is no record of the meeting in Ms Sturgeon’s official diary.

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On the day of the meeting Springfield claims to have had with Ms Sturgeon, her diary simply states: “Announcement, Cities Deal – Perth” in reference to the wider public event she attended in the town.

However the firm states that managing director Peter Matthews held a “face-to-face meeting” with Sturgeon.

Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay – whose research staff uncovered the undocumented meetings – said: “There are serious questions to be asked with reference to the ministerial code.

“This smacks of cronyism. A large-scale SNP donor meets with the First Minister and other cabinet members but none of it is registered in their ministerial diaries.

“All of this is against a backdrop of the social housing budget being cut by £100million.”

However a spokesperson for the SNP said the lobbying register had been approached to have the Springfield record amended as no such meeting took place.

“There was no one to one meeting and the First Minister's engagements have been correctly declared. The lobbying register has been contacted to correct the entry."

It is understood that while Ms Sturgeon was in Perth for the Tay Cities Deal announcement there had been a short “meet and greet” with a number of stakeholders, and a representative from Springfield attended, but “there was no one to one meeting, nor was there a connection to any planning application”.

Nicola Sturgeon was previously accused of cronyism in 2015 after announcing an overhaul of the planning system which also followed a campaign by Sandy Adam.

The firm has also recorded a meeting between disgraced former finance minister Derek Mackay and Sandy Adam in July 2018, but the talks did not appear in Mackay’s own diary.

According to the lobbying register senior Springfield employees also met Housing Minister Kevin Stewart twice in 2019 but the firm wasn’t mentioned on either occasion in his records.

A Springfield spokeswoman said: “Springfield, like many companies, periodically engages with ministers to celebrate the work we carry out in communities and to mark development milestones.

“We also attend events and conferences about topics related to our business and to understand how we can help meet Scottish Government targets for affordable housing and sustainability. We record all of our engagement with ministers in the lobbying register.”

The firm insisted the meetings with ministers were not one-to-one.

The Scottish Government said: “All ministerial meetings are proactively reported.”

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