TOURIST bosses have put up a cash reward after a life-sized cut-out of a poster boy for their new campaign was stolen.
VisitScotland was launching its new £1.25million marketing drive at the plush Prestonfield House Hotel in Edinburgh when two women kidnapped the 6ft 3ins cut out.
The pensioners were seen to bungle a cut out model of the hotel’s concierge – who is the face of their new European campaign – into a taxi before taking off.
Security staff at the hotel are now scouring CCTV footage to track down the culprits, who were among around 90 people at launch party, held in the Rhubarb restaurant.
And the government agency for tourism has also offered to donate £100 to charity in exchange for the safe return of the hotel hunk.
Derek West, 32, concierge at the five-star hotel, said he was bewildered at the opportunistic heist.
He said: “We’re all pretty surprised at what happened. Our restaurant manager came over and said ‘you’ve just been stolen’.
“One of the porters at the front desk had asked the two ladies if they were ok, and they said they were waiting for a taxi.
“Then when he turned away it was under the arm and straight into a cab with me.
“It’s an exciting campaign, and it would be good to have the full collection of cut outs back.”
The hotel’s owner James Thomson added: “These are probably not the first guests at Prestonfield to want to take Derek home with them.
“We are glad to still have the real Derek here to welcome our guests and hope that the cut out will be returned to VisitScotland soon so it can play its part in exciting campaign to welcome visitors to Scotland.”
The Meet the Scots campaign is the most expensive ever undertaken by the tourism body, which seeks to draw in European visitors.
VisitScotland is now missing one of its 14 cut out models, which provide a snapshot of friendly Scots to potential visitors.
Other faces of the drive include the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, golfer Gary Forbes, whisky expert Julie Trevisan-Hunter and top chef Tony Singh.
A spokeswoman for VisitScotland said: “We are offering a £100 donation to charity for the return of our cut-out of Derek.
“He is a highly regarded member of staff at Prestonfield and a fantastic ambassador for Scottish tourism.
“He is a key part of our European Touring campaign, which is all about real people and their impact on the visitor experience.
“He was last seen being pushed into a taxi by two women who had clearly taken a liking to him.
“The bad news for them is that there is CCTV at Prestonfield so we will have their cardboard kidnap on camera.
“If they come forward voluntarily we will forgive and forget and donate the cash to charity.
”His cut out is going to be travelling much further afield as part of a number of events we will be holding across Europe to promote this £1.25million campaign – so we would like him back please.”