Sam Torrance, Fred MacAulay and Jackie Bird: Quango spent £100,000 on celebrities to woo investors

SCOTTISH Enterprise has attracted criticism after it emerged it paid out more than £100,000 to hire celebrities such as Fred MacAulay, Jackie Bird and Sally Magnusson to attend business events.

Among the biggest celebrity bills the quango has paid since 2008 include a 23,500 fee to former Ryder Cup golfer Sam Torrance to give golf tips to potential investors and 12,000 to comedian Fred MacAulay to act as master of ceremonies at two dinners.

Scottish Enterprise, led by chief executive Lena Wilson, receives a 276 million budget to help boost economic growth in Scotland. In recent years the organisation has been criticised for budget problems and over-spending on consultants. Now it faces fresh questions over the 113,460 it has spent on celebrities since 2008.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A spokeswoman for the organisation said that since April this year it has spent just 4,710, for author Quentin Cooper to chair a debate at the Science Festival in Edinburgh.

The amount the quango has spent on "named" speakers has been branded "desperate" by David Whitton MSP, Labour's shadow finance spokesman.

Broadcaster Sally Magnusson was paid about 4,000 to host the Scottish Offshore Achievement Awards in 2009, and her BBC colleague Jackie Bird got about 5,000 for the same event this year.

Last year, television presenter and former rally driver Penny Mallory was paid 4,350 to give a "motivational talk" to business leaders in Aberdeen.

In the same year cyclist Mark Beaumont was paid 2,500 to speak at the Chemical Sciences Scotland dinner.

James Naughtie, Radio 4 Today presenter, was hired for 8,000 to chair a financial services conference, while STV's Stephen Jardine got 3,450 for hosting the Scottish Enterprise Visitor Experience Conference.

Torrance's fee included hosting two dinners and chairing a Q&A session with business representatives.

Fred MacAulay received 12,000 for being MC at the Scottish Enterprise Life Sciences Annual Dinner this year and last.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Last year the quango splashed out fees totalling 37,950 for four people - former Loose Women anchor Kaye Adams, columnist Mike Southon, and BBC presenters Shereen Nanjiani and John Anderson - to host 12 "winning through innovation" events. Scottish Enterprise's total spending in this area last year was 57,300.

A spokeswoman from Scottish Enterprise said: "On the rare occasions that we do use personalities, it is to host major events, which is standard business practice.

"This year we have significantly reduced our spend as a result of reviewing our operations in light of the current economic climate."

Commenting specifically on Sam Torrance's fee, she added: "This was part of an overall drive to attract investment."

David Whitton MSP said: "This sort of economic strategy smacks a bit of desperation.I would like to know whether any of the investors were so impressed with Sam Torrance's tips that they decided to set up a factory here."

Lib-Dem finance spokesman Jeremy Purvis MSP said: "The time is right for full-scale and fundamental reform of Scottish Enterprise.

"We propose replacing it with regional development banks focused on getting the specific support for businesses that they need."