SNP deputy council leader criticised over foreign trips

The deputy leader of Scotland’s largest local authority has been criticised by opposition politicians and unions for the number of foreign trips he undertook on official business this year.

Glasgow City Chambers. The SNP took power on Scotland's largest council for the first time in 2017. Picture: John Devlin

David McDonald, an SNP councillor on Glasgow City Council, shared updates on social media from the seven countries across Europe and Asia he visited as part of civic delegations in the previous 12 months.

The trips were undertaken in an official capacity by Mr McDonald, who is also chair of Glasgow Life – an arm’s-length body that runs the council’s art galleries, leisure facilities and museums.

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Mr McDonald, who is the council’s convener for culture, vibrancy and international co-operation, spent six days in Tokyo in April to promote an exhibition of 73 paintings on loan from the Burrell collection.

The local authority said the trip to Japan was at no cost to taxpayers.

Gary Smith, the GMB union’s Scottish secretary, told a national newspaper: “Glasgow council taxpayers will be aghast at this councillor’s excesses.”

Thomas Kerr, a Conservative councillor, said: “Globe-trotting David McDonald is just the latest Glasgow SNP politician doing exactly what they berated others for in the past.”

Mr McDonald said: “I’m proud to have the honour of representing our city and Glasgow Life, one of Scotland’s largest charities, at events at home and abroad.

“Every event that I’ve attended has been approved by the council and most by fellow councillors on the cross-party City Administration Committee, including Cllr Kerr.

“This include meetings, launches and ceremonies for major events taking place in Glasgow or other initiatives that support the local economy.”

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “These are not personal trips, Councillor McDonald has been sent to represent the city as part of his roles with both the council and Glasgow Life.

“They include meetings, launches and ceremonies for major events taking place in Glasgow, or other initiatives that support the local economy.

“In most cases, the decision to attend is taken by his fellow members on the cross-party City Administration Committee.

“Glasgow has always had an international outlook. The city has seen a radical transformation since being awarded European City of Culture in 1990. We continue to focus on culture, sport and events as key drivers in providing lasting social and economic improvements for the city.

“Only last month Glasgow was named the UK’s leading cultural and creative destination in the European Commission’s 2019 Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor. And in November Glasgow was voted the World’s Leading Festival and Event Destination 2019, and succeeded in its bid to be named European Capital of Sport in 2023.”