Taking the biscuit: SNP quango’s £8.5k snack bill

MEMBERS of the SNP government body created to deliver major building projects spent thousands of pounds of taxpayers cash on refreshments, newly released figures showed.

The Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) racked up a bill of more than £8,500 to cover the cost of food and drink including platters of sandwiches, pastries and biscuits, documents released under freedom of information laws revealed.

Opposition parties have previously criticised the quango, which was set up by SNP ministers to secure best value for the public purse, for failing to build enough new schools or hospitals.

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The figures for the past two years obtained by The Scotsman showed that SFT employees and board members attended lunches and breakfasts at the taxpayers’ expense. A total of £4,944.11 was spent on refreshments during 2010-11 and £3,714.77 during 2011-12 at meetings and events hosted by the SFT.

The most expensive refreshments bill was £698.19 spent on catering for an SFT event. 
There was also £615.46 to cover the cost of catering for an event the quango staged at Williamwood High School in East 
Renfrewshire.

A total of £363 went on feeding guests at an event at a Royal College of Physicians venue, while £439.92 was spent on food and drink at a meal billed as a “waste workshop lunch”.

Members of the quango also billed the taxpayer for £98.30 to pay for three sandwich platters at separate events, with £15.69 spent on biscuits. The SFT said yesterday that it has now stopped providing biscuits at its meetings.

Other hospitality costs incurred by the body included £28.35 on pastries and £148.30 on hosting three events at the Coffee Angel shop in Edinburgh.

There was also £378.80 spent on a pre-conference dinner, and £144.48 for an event described as “Saltire hospitality”.

Opposition politicians seized on the use of taxpayers’ cash to pay for refreshments to call on the quango to reduce its spending on food and drink.

Labour MSP Richard Baker said: “The Scottish Futures Trust is supposed to be there to achieve best value for money, so some people will raise an eyebrow about the amount spent on refreshments.

“I hope that the Scottish Futures Trust will look to see how it might reduce such costs in the future. Although we are talking about relatively small amounts, every penny counts and when it comes to refreshments public sector bodies need to minimise what they spend.”

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, the head of Holyrood’s economy committee, said: “The Scottish taxpayer will want to see the Scottish Futures Trust provide real value for money and not to spend large sums on hospitality.”

Barry White, chief executive of the SFT said: “SFT’s work, which includes leading a £3 billion investment programme, involves the hosting of meetings where, in the interests of business efficiency, working lunches were sometimes provided.”

The Scottish Government has previously said that the SFT was delivering good value for money during the spending squeeze currently gripping services.