Scotland politics

Alex Salmond-led Ryder Cup trip 'cost £470,000'

Alex Salmond
Image caption Mr Salmond received a ceremonial putter as the Ryder Cup was formally handed over to Scotland

The cost of sending a delegation led by First Minister Alex Salmond to the Ryder Cup golf tournament in America was almost £470,000, the Scottish government has said.

The trip in September was part of a plan to "maximise the economic benefits" of hosting the cup in Scotland in 2014.

The government estimates the event will generate about £100m for the economy.

Opposition parties criticised the costs as excessive.

In a written response to a question from Labour, External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop stated: "The overall cost of Team Scotland's participation at the 2012 Ryder Cup was £468,580 and every effort was made to minimise costs including liaising with partner organisations to secure preferred rates where possible and identifying in-kind support.

"The Team Scotland approach in Chicago will help ensure we maximise the economic benefits of hosting the Ryder Cup in 2014 which will generate at least £100m for the Scottish economy."

The tournament at Medinah, near Chicago, provided a "unique opportunity" to promote Scotland to a worldwide audience, she added.

The visit incorporated ministerial visits and business meetings, with the 36-strong delegation also including representatives of VisitScotland, EventScotland and Scottish Development International as well as the Scottish government.

Labour MSP Patricia Ferguson said: "To find out that Alex Salmond's trip to watch the golf cost all of us almost half a million pounds is eye-watering.

"The Welsh Government can spend about the same, but attend three Ryder Cups. Why does Alex Salmond cost us so much more?

"This comes on top of the tens of thousands of pounds spent on his trip to the opening of Brave in California earlier this year."

'Travelling circus'

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: "I am generally accepting of the first minister's US trip, given that Scotland will host the next Ryder Cup.

"However, like most taxpayers, I am astonished that the costs incurred bear more relation to a head of state with a travelling circus than to the more modest expense which would have been appropriate and justifiable.

"It seems that even when using taxpayers' money, Alex Salmond doesn't do modest."

Scottish Lib Dem leader, Willie Rennie, added: "When money is tight, spending half a million pounds on a trip to the USA has to be questioned for value for money.

"It's right that Scotland was represented at the Ryder Cup but it can't be right to spend this amount on that representation."

A spokesman for the first minister accused Labour of "breathtaking hypocrisy", while criticising the previous first minister, Jack McConnell.

"They spent more than this on Tartan Day trips to the United States during each one of their last three years in office," said the spokesman.

"Their attacks might have some credibility if it wasn't for the fact that 'million pound McConnell' was happy to splash out on treating himself and other ministers to taxpayer-funded trips like this on such a lavish scale."

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