Alex Salmond finally publishes five-star hotel list

The First Minister and his ministers drop their claim publishing the list would jeopardise their security as it emerged he spent £800 on “subsistence” at a luxury Chicago hotel

Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland

Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland  Photo: Rex

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Alex Salmond and his ministers have finally published a list of the five-star hotels where they have stayed abroad at taxpayers’ expense after dropping their claim that disclosing the information would jeopardise their safety.
They answered a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, tabled 15 months ago, disclosing they had spent thousands of pounds at luxury hotels in New York, Beijing and Tokyo.
The Sunday Post reported that nearly 80,000 of public money on overseas hotels and subsistence for Mr Salmond and his ministers between 2007, when they took power, and last year. However, he continued to refuse to provide some details for “security reasons”.
The information was disclosed after the Daily Telegraph won a lengthy FOI battle with the First Minister earlier this year over his stay with his wife in a luxury hotel suite during his trip to the Ryder Cup in Chicago.
As with the Sunday Post request, Mr Salmond attempted to argue that disclosing how much public money he spent at the Peninsula Hotel during his 2012 stay would jeopardise his safety.
However, this newspaper disclosed in April how he spent £3,000 of taxpayers’ money for four nights in a “grand deluxe suite”, which included a marble bathroom with spectacular views across the city.
The Sunday Post reported he also spent almost £800 on “subsistence” at the Peninsula, bringing the total bill to £3,756 and making it the most expensive hotel stay by any minister since the SNP took power.
Mr Salmond has previously dismissed as “ridiculous frippery” demands he account for his spending at the hotel and provided the Freedom of Information commissioner with comments from the police to bolster his claim publishing information would endanger his safety.
Alex Johnstone, a Scottish Conservative MSP, said: “The First Minister has a reputation for living it up at the public’s expense and now we know his ministers have been happy to follow suit.
“People will rightly be appalled that their hard-earned taxes are being used to put Alex Salmond and his SNP ministers up in five-star luxury in some of the best hotels in the world.”
This newspaper has also previously disclosed how the First Minister spent £250 on a pair of tartan trousers in China before waging an extraordinary campaign to keep secret his failure to refund the public purse.
The new FOI showed his office racked up £58,640 of spending made using a “travel and subsistence card” between December 2008 and the end of last year.
He continued to block much of the details about the spending for “security reasons” but the total included £21,379 at hotels around the world all but two of which were five star.
They included the China World Hotel in Beijing, where the bill for his 2011 trip came to £2,174, and the Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong, which cost the public purse more than £1,000.
The FOI response showed that all the other SNP ministers have spent £56,652 at 183 overseas hotels since they took power in 2007, 64 of which were five star and 100 four star.
Shona Robison, the Sports Minister, spent £1,436 for a four-night stay at the five-star Atlantis Hotel in Dubai in 2009 when lobbying for a rugby sevens tournament to be held in Scotland.
Mike Russell, the Education Minister, spent £1,800 at the five-star Taj Hotel in Delhi during a trade and training mission two years later. He also spent £1,500 on two stays in the Oberoi Grand in Calcutta.
Richard Lochhead, the Scottish Environment Minister, ran up the highest bill of £13,409 but he had to regularly attend fisheries and agriculture meetings in Brussels.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Decisions on accommodation used by Scottish ministers during overseas visits are made based on obtaining best value for money and practicality in allowing proximity to engagements.”


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