By Cara Sulieman
A GOVERNMENT body has come under fire after spending nearly a quarter of a million pounds at a luxury hotel that is run by its chairman.
The cash was paid at the time when Peter Lederer was both the chairman of the quango and managing director of the company that runs the hotel.
Part of the £49 million budget for VisitScotland – who promotes the country as a desirable destination – is used to host events and bring in extra investment.
But it has raised eyebrows by spending a whopping £233,810 at Gleneagles.
The figure includes spending by Homecoming Scotland and Event Scotland – both umbrella groups of the tourism board.
Among the costs, officials paid £5,978 for an “ambassador event dinners” at the resort and £1,425 for “accommodation board”.
Nearly £5,000 was spent for bed and breakfast, £2,749 on a “gala dinner” and £1,980 on a “German familiarisation trip”.
And big ticket events included the £70,281 Scotland Means Business event in 2002, which was held at the hotel.
In 2005, £54,284 spent in hosting the US Tour Operators Conference, but a spokesman for VisitScotland said that they didn’t choose to use the hotel in that case.
Mr Lederer took up his post at VisitScotland in 2001, and was still managing director of Gleneagles Hotel Ltd until March 2007.
SNP MSP John Wilson said: “It’s difficult to understand how a world-famous hotel that is owned by Diageo requires public money of any kind.
“And once again, issues are raised about people serving on boards and money being paid out to firms they are linked to. VisitScotland, like other public bodies, have to avoid these conflicts in the future.”
A spokesman for Scottish Labour said: “Where public money is involved, there has to be absolute transparency, particularly in the current economic climate.”
Philip Riddle, VisitScotland’s chief executive, insisted that Mr Lederer had no say in the use of the hotel as they were operational decisions and are not discussed with the board or chairman.
He added: “As chairman of VisitScotland, Peter Lederer has never been involved with any decisions regarding expenditure at Gleneagles.
“Peter has been the most fantastic ambassador for Scotland and acts with the utmost integrity at all times; this is reflected in his standing within the industry and across the world.
“VisitScotland wants to encourage top-level industry input to all activities but is also careful to ensure that proper procedures are in place to ensure that all board members’ interests are fully declared.
“Gleneagles is one of the most iconic destinations in the world. For VisitScotland not to use it in the promotion of the country would be remiss.”