First Minister Alex Salmond did not breach the ministerial code by hosting lottery-winning SNP donors Chris and Colin Weir at Bute House, an investigation has found.
Dame Elish Angiolini, the former Lord Advocate and the Scottish Government’s adviser on the ministerial code, found that there was no evidence to back up a complaint by Labour MSP Paul Martin that the September 2011 visit by the Weirs broke paragraph 7 of the rules governing the conduct of government ministers.
Angiolini’s report states that because the hospitality provided to the Weirs – namely, tea and biscuits – was paid for from Salmond’s private funds, and not from the public purse, the visit did not breach the code.
“Bute House is the designated official residence of the First Minister,” Angiolini’s report says. “The visit to Bute House was of a personal/party nature. Any such visit is expressly permitted by the Scottish Ministerial Code provided no resources are used from the public purse. The tea and biscuits were provided from the First Minister’s private resources stored in his apartment at Bute House.
“As paragraph 7.2 gives explicit permission to host personal or party events at Bute House, provided such events are not resourced from the public purse, the nature and substance of any discussions which took place are not relevant to the Code.
“The First Minister has nonetheless indicated that there was no discussion about money or donations and confirmed that the visit took place in private with only the First Minister in attendance.”
In a statement following the publication of Angiolini’s findings, the First Minister said: “I welcome the report and I am sure that Mr Martin will also be reassured by Dame Elish’s conclusions, which demonstrate that I acted entirely in accordance with the Scottish Ministerial Code.
“This will be the fifth complaint to be referred to the independent panel of advisers I introduced in 2008 to rule on these matters. I am delighted that each complaint has been dismissed and the advisers concluded my ministers and I have acted entirely properly.”
The Weirs, long-time SNP supporters from Largs in North Ayrshire, won a EuroMillions jackpot of over £161m in July 2011. They donated £1m to the SNP shortly after their win, and have since been highly visible at party events, including being seated in the front row at the recent launch of the ‘Yes’ campaign for the Scottish independence referendum.