SNP donor at heart of new crony controversy

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ALEX Salmond is facing a fresh cronyism row after it emerged that an SNP donor is the favourite to head the Government quango Scottish Enterprise.

Crawford Beveridge, a member of Salmond's council of economic advisers, is in line to secure the 39,000-a-year part-time post of chairman of the organisation.

Last week, Salmond was condemned by Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Tories after Graham Houston, the SNP leader of Stirling council, was appointed chairman of the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

The current Scottish Enterprise chairman, Sir John Ward, is due to step down this month.

Beveridge, who was chief executive of Scottish Enterprise for nine years from 1991 to 2000 and is currently vice-president of US computer firm Sun Microsystems, gave the SNP 10,000 before the last Scottish Parliament elections. The appointment must be approved by John Swinney, the Finance Secretary.

Last night, it was reported that sources close to the selection process have said they are "uncomfortable" about the way the selection process is being handled.

Andy Kerr, the Labour Shadow Finance Secretary, said: "It is no secret that the SNP are lining up a nationalist to take over this crucial role, which will be to the detriment not just to the business community in Scotland, but undermine Scotland as a whole."

Murdo Fraser, the deputy Scottish Tory leader, said it was vital that the government appoint a figure without party allegiances.

A government spokeswoman said the appointment process was being conducted under procedures set out by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland.

"The shortlist of candidates was submitted to ministers before Christmas. John Swinney will make a decision on the appointment shortly," she said.

An aide to Swinney added: "These suggestions are nothing more than scaremongering and smear tactics from Labour."