TAXPAYERS forked out £30,000 to have living flame gas fires installed at Alex Salmond’s official residence, it has emerged.
A further £60,000 was spent on a new boiler system for Bute House in Edinburgh’s beautiful Charlotte Square.
But despite spending £90,000 on an “efficient” new heating system, the First Minister’s utility bill has rocketed since he came to power.
The charges, which include gas and electricity for the 18th Century building, went from an already eye-watering £77,000 in 2007/08 to an average of almost £100,000 for the past two years.
Taxpayers already spend £70,000 a year simply to lease the property from the Scottish National Trust.
The Scottish Conservatives said it was time to stop funding the First Minister’s “lavish lifestyle” from the public purse and condemned what they called spending on “festooneries” at Bute House.
Historic Scotland, which took over responsibility for maintaining the property in May 2012, was asked under the Freedom of Information Act to provide details of spending on maintenance.
A failing to respond to the request for three months, officials eventually revealed that £30,229 was spent on “living gas flame fires and incidental work” at the property two years ago.
Living flame fires are designed to imitate coal or wood burning fires with gas flames set amid replica logs or coals.
Around the same time the listed building had a £58,777 replacement boiler system installed.
The investment appears to have failed to keep costs under control.
“Additional running costs” for Bute House, which include gas, electricity, water and cleaning, were £77,300 in 2007/08.
They rocketed to £104,800 in 2009/10 and were £93,100 in 2010/11.
Scottish Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone said: “A number of challenges face the public purse, which is why it should not be funding festooneries for the First Minister.
“People will look at this figure and wonder why so much is being spent on Alex Salmond’s official residence.
“Alex Salmond enjoys a lavish lifestyle – the taxpayer should not suffer as a result.”
Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian, said: “It’s ironic that the public purse absorbs the rising fuel bill of Bute House while thousands of Scots on low incomes struggle to meet their heating costs.
“It would be useful to know what sort of energy efficiency measures are available to Bute House and if they have all been taken up.”
A spokeswoman for Historic Scotland said: “Following expert advice, essential work was carried out due to the condition of the boiler and the opportunity was also taken to install a more energy efficient unit at that time.
“The heating system was further improved though the installation of gas fires and essential work was undertaken to ensure fire proofing and that gases safely vent out through the flues.
“Bute House is a working property and as such is used to showcase Scotland on a regular basis.
“The utility bills have also fluctuated due to the costs being above inflation over the years.”
The Scottish Government declined to comment, referring enquiries to Historic Scotland.
In 2009 it was reported £7,000 was being spent on light fittings at Bute House so it retained its “Georgian character.”
An “Adam-style side table” was bought for £2,600 and a “two-drawer side table” for £1,650.
Last year it emerged the First Minister spent £370,000 on entertaining during his first term, including dinners at Bute House.
Bute House caused embarrassment of a different kind for Labour First Minister Jack McConnell. In 2006, he was said to be “very, very unhappy” after video footage emerged of one of his son’s friends frolicking inside Bute House.
Clips posted online showed a man dancing in a bedroom wearing two dressing gowns before diving onto a bed.