Alex Salmond accused over secret nomination for Sir Brian Souter

ALEX SALMOND was yesterday accused of secretly nominating SNP-funding bus tycoon Brian Souter for a knighthood – then denying it in public.

ALEX SALMOND was yesterday accused of secretly nominating SNP-funding bus tycoon Brian Souter for a knighthood – then denying it in public.
The First Minister had insisted that Scottish ministers had “no involvement” in putting the SNP’s biggest donor forward for the honour.
But the chief of the honours system has now confirmed that the Stagecoach boss was nominated by the Scottish Government.
Sir Brian, 57, pledged a whopping £500,000 to the SNP’s Holyrood election campaign in February.
In June, a month after the SNP won the election, he was knighted in the Queen’s birthday honours in recognition of his services to transport and charitable work.
A spokesman for Alex Salmond said at the time: “The Queen’s honours are a reserved matter and Scottish ministers have no involvement in the process.”
But now senior civil servant Denis Brennan, head of the Honours and Appointments Secretariat, has confirmed that the nomination came from the SNP Government.
Kilmarnock and Loudon Labour MP Cathy Jamieson wrote to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg last month, asking who had put Sir Brian’s name forward for a knighthood.
In a letter, Mr Brennan replied: “We do not believe it would serve the public interest if it became apparent that details of individual nominations might occasionally be made public.
“But I can say that the nomination of Brian Souter came from the Scottish Government.”
Mr Salmond has previously criticised former Prime Minister Tony Blair over secret loans made to the Labour Party from lenders who were later nominated for peerages.
A complaint lodged by Western Isles Nats MP Angus MacNeil on the issue sparked the controversial cash-forhonours police probe.
Ms Jamieson said: “Mr Salmond now has serious questions to answer about why he and officials misled people and tried to conceal his personal involvement in the honour.
“Nominating his donor for an honour was dubious enough, but to then mislead the public in a bid to cover his tracks is simply unacceptable.
“The First Minister needs to apologise immediately.”
Sir Brian filled the SNP’s Holyrood election war chest this year by pledging £500,000 to match contributions that were made by others.
Ms Jamieson said: “The First Minister and his party must look seriously at the relationship they have developed with wealthy individuals who are handing them large sums of cash.
“People will rightly ask what is next on Mr Souter’s shopping list – and then wait for the First Minister to deliver. The Scottish Government must publish a full list of SNP donors they have nominated for honours.”
She added: “Civil servants would not make decisions like this without ministers being fully involved.
“It is astonishing Alex Salmond is trying to hide behind civil servants. If true, it shows SNP ministers have completely lost control of the departments they run.
“I have asked Alex Salmond this in a letter, but haven’t had a response. If he has nothing to hide, why hasn’t he replied?”
Sir Brian – worth an estimated £400million – is a lifelong supporter of the SNP and its biggest donor.
The First Minister’s spokesman last night insisted Scottish ministers have no say in honours nominations.
He added: “When nominations are received by the Scottish Government, the honours group in our civil service supports the permanent secretary in putting forward nominations to the UK Cabinet Office Honours Committee.
“Under this system, honours announced in June would have been submitted six months in advance.
“Ministers make no nominations, and are only told of honours shortly before they are announced, so they can welcome those being recognised.”

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