SCOTTISH Enterprise has splashed out more than £100,000 to hire celebrities such as Fred MacAulay, Jackie Bird and Sally Magnusson to attend business events.
The extravagant spending included £23,500 for former Ryder Cup golfer Sam Torrance to give golf tips to potential investors and £12,000 to comedian Fred MacAulay to act as master of ceremonies at two dinners.
The move has been branded “desperate” by David Whitton MSP, Labour’s shadow finance spokesman.
The quango receives a £276 million budget to help boost economic growth in Scotland.
In recent years the organisation has been criticised for budget problems and over-spending on consultants.
Now they face fresh questions over the £113,460 they have spent on celebrities since 2008.
Sally Magnusson was paid £4,000 to host the Scottish Offshore Achievement Awards in 2009, and her BBC colleague Jackie Bird got £5,000 for the same event this year.
Last year, former rally driver Penny Mallory was paid £4,350 to give a “motivational talk” to business leaders in Aberdeen.
And in the same year cyclist Mark Beaumont was paid £2,500 to speak at the Chemical Sciences Scotland dinner.
Between February 2009 and September this year, the quango splashed out fees totalling £37,950 for four people – Kaye Adams, Mike Southon, Shereen Nanjiani and John Anderson – to host 12 “winning through innovation” events.
One of the most expensive outlays was a whopping £23,500 paid for Sam Torrance to help potential investors with their swing and putting skills.
His fee also included hosting two dinners and chairing a Q&A session with business representatives.
Despite the massive bill, Scottish Enterprise have cut their spending in this area from £57,300 last year to £4,710 in the current financial year.
A spokeswoman from Scottish Enterprise said: “On the rare occasions that we do use personalities, it is to host major events, which is standard business practice.
“This year we have significantly reduced our spend as a result of reviewing our operations in light of the current economic climate.”
Commenting specifically on Sam Torrance’s fee, she added: “This was part of an overall drive to attract investment.
“There are 2,030 non-Scotland-owned companies present in Scotland, employing 288,440 staff with an annual turnover of £65.1 billion.”
She also added that the fees were paid to events companies and not to the celebrities directly.
David Whitton MSP said: “This sort of economic strategy smacks a bit of desperation.
“I would like to know whether any of the investors were so impressed with Sam Torrance’s tips that they decided to set up a factory here.”
LibDem finance spokesman Jeremy Purvis MSP said: “The time is right for full-scale and fundamental reform of Scottish Enterprise.
“We propose replacing it with regional development banks focused on getting the specific support for businesses that they need.”