One of Scotland’s top hoteliers who is close friend of Donald Trump and former First Minister Alex Salmond has issued an apology after making homophobic remarks at a fund-raising dinner.
Stewart Spence, owner of the five-star Marcliffe Hotel and Spa in Pitfodels, Aberdeen, speaking at a dinner held on Thursday night for HIT Scotland, the hospitality industry’s charity, told guests “I’ve never employed p****, there’s a hundred staff and not one of them are p****”.
Last night Mr Spence, 67, who was awarded an MBE in 2015 for services to the tourism industry in Scotland, apologised, describing his words as “entirely unacceptable” and an ill-judged attempt at humour evoking the 1970s.
“I made some very ill-advised comments at the dinner last night and I am absolutely mortified today.
“I would like to sincerely apologise for the offence caused. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was hoping to raise a few laughs around the seventies theme and while the words I used may have, regrettably, been commonplace in that generation, they were still entirely unacceptable.
“The Marcliffe is an inclusive place both for staff and customers. We welcome everyone regardless of their sexual orientation.
“I really regret this and am truly sorry.”
A spokesperson for HIT Scotland said: “We strongly disagree with the homophobic views and comments expressed by one individual, they were a complete surprise and as shocking as they were inaccurate to the truth of the hospitality industry.
“Hospitality is a diverse and inclusive industry, it has consistently led the way on equality and diversity above and beyond any other sector and that is something we take great pride in.
“We would like to reassure everyone that his offensive comments were his own and in no way representative of the opinions of HIT Scotland or indeed the hospitality industry as a whole. It was very regretful that he chose an event in aid of the industry to make such unwelcome remarks.”
Steve Harris, chief executive of VisitAberdeenshire, said: “I want to make clear that, as the official tourism body for the region, we seek to encourage visits from everyone. The LGBT community will find a warm welcome here.
“Tourism is a very diverse industry and employs people in great careers from every background.
“I am very confident the views expressed by one individual do not reflect those of the industry nor of the local people who are well known for their generous welcome.”
Tim Hopkins, director of the Equality Network, said: “For an employer to use that language about employees is potentially unlawful.
“The majority of people in Scotland would consider these remarks completely unacceptable. We welcome the remarks made by VisitAberdeenshire. VisitScotland and Equality Network are also working hard to encourage LGBT people to travel to Scotland. These unacceptable comments don’t help.”