Rennie questions Salmond’s £400k on “London embassy” for the Olympics

The Scottish Government, understandably enough, has decided to showcase Scotland to the representatives of business and government from all over the world who are currently visiting London for the Olympics. Showing Scotland off is never a bad thing, especially when we are hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2 years’ time.

They have, bizarrely, blown £400,000 on hiring the Army and Navy Club in Pall Mall and renaming it Scotland House. There, according to First Minister Alex Salmond, visitors can see:

what a great place Scotland is to have a holiday or do business in, and what wonderful food and drink and culture we export all across the globe – not to mention our pride in our sporting history, personified by heroes like Eric Liddell.

That’s all very well, but it turns out that they were offered the use of  Dover House, where the Scotland Office is based not just at cheaper cost, but at no cost whatsoever. Not only that, but that building overlooks Horse Guards Parade, so they would have been able to take in the Beach Volleyball at the same time.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said:

It’s a bit rich for Mr Salmond to complain about a lack of funds for schools and hospitals while spending almost half a million pounds on a plush London address during the Olympics. Spending the equivalent of a nurses’  annual salary every day on the exclusive Pall Mall address when Dover House was available free of charge is a colossal waste of money.

An invitation was made to the Scottish Government to use Dover House to promote Scotland, something that both the UK and Scottish Government are keen to do during the Olympics. It is one of the government’s finest buildings and Michael Moore has already hosted receptions there this week to take advantage of its prime location to promote Scotland on the world stage.

To say Dover House would not have been suitable simply makes no sense. It smacks of putting party politics ahead of taking advantage of the Olympics to benefit Scotland.

Alex Salmond and other Scottish Ministers’ divisive language on the Olympics, where he talked about “Scolympians” going for gold, without recognising the rest of Team GB, seems churlish and mean-spirited. Is he seriously suggesting Scots should be proud of gold medal winning rower Heather Stanning who was raised in Lossiemouth, but not of her Cornish partner Helen Glover? One minute the SNP tell us that independence shouldn’t scare us that we’ll still keep the Queen and the pound and stay British. The next, we’re only to be proud of Scots athletes and not the rest of the team to which they belong.

Scottish taxpayers may well have something to say about their money being unnecessarily wasted on Scotland House. It’s one thing to promote Scotland, another to make the venture a divisive vanity exercise.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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2 Comments

  • This is no surprise, Mr Salmond is known as a slick operator. In my opinion he’s in the “too clever by half” category. (I am an English man who believes that the Scottish people have the absolute right to decide for themselves how they run their country – independence, or stick with the Union).

  • uglyfatbloke 2nd Aug '12 - 4:25pm

    And what would we have said if Salmon had NOT established a Scottish presence for the Olympics? ‘Salmond snubs athletes? ‘ ‘Salmond hates Sport?’
    Even so, it may have been a bad move since so many people can’t stand all the massive spending on athletes (sometimes in games you’ve never even heard of) games parks and bureaucrats.
    Did anyone outside the M25 really benefit from the billions spent on the London athletics fest?
    And can nobody get Willie rennie under control…every time I see his at FMQs etc I cna se the backbenchers squirming in embarassment..and who’s to blame them?

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