ALEX Salmond has been condemned for dishing out luxury chocolates worth up to £95 to his friends in high places.
The first minister was accused of having a “penchant for luxury” after it emerged he had been lavishing VIP guests with the taxpayer-funded artisan chocolates.
The treats are made by Iain Burnett of The Highland Chocolatier whose clients Albert Roux and Gordon Ramsay.
The Scottish Government refused to answer a Freedom of Information request on how much it had spent on “confectionary” over the past three years, claiming it would cost too much.
But insiders have revealed that on one recent occasion the chocolates were dished out at a reception hosted by the First Minister.
High-powered guests attending the late summer event at Mr Salmond’s official residence, Bute House, in Edinburgh, were sent away with a box of the chocolates.
On its website, the Highland Chocolatier sells a range of luxurious products, with a box of cocoa dusted velvet truffles costing £95.00.
The website also sells boxes of 90 “enrobbed” chocolates for £89.95, “just truffles selection” for £63.95 and £39.95 for “chocolatier’s selection”.
Scottish Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone said: “Alex Salmond likes to create the impression the most any visitor to Bute House will receive is a Tunnock’s tea cake.
“It seems from this the First Minister’s penchant for luxury at the taxpayer’s expense has crept its way through the Scottish Government too.”
And Eben Wilson, director of Taxpayerscotland, criticised the Scottish Government for refusing to reveal full details of expenditure on the luxury giveaways.
He said:: “We have called, as others have, for all expenditures over £50 to be posted online as they happen.
“This would be real information freedom and stop local and central governments hiding behind excuses that it costs too much to tell us how they are using our money.”
He added: “That shows contempt for taxpayers who may not mind how much is spent on sweetmeats but don’ t want those who rule us to have sweet privileges
“It’s time public servants understood that they can no longer assume taxpayers are willing to fund their happy hours of luxury living on expenses.”
In 2012 the government came under fire when it was revealed the government spent almost £500,000 sending the First Minster and his entourage on a week long trip to the Ryder Cup in Chicago.
It also spent nearly £43,000 on a ‘panda party’ when the panda’s arrived at Edinburgh Zoo from China.
Two years ago Alex Salmond was heavily criticised for spending £25,000 of taxpayers’ money every day of the Olympics on hiring out an exclusive gentlemen’s club in London to entertain businessmen and dignitaries.
The Scottish Government claimed it could not provide the information because it would involve a manual check of 75,000 orders, costing more than the £600 limit set by the Freedom of Information Act.
Despite this, a spokesman was quickly able to confirm that £291.24 had been spent on Highland Chocolatier products last year at official receptions and dinners.
The spokesman said: “At Scottish Government official dinners and receptions, we always seek to showcase Scotland’s finest produce. Highland Chocolatier are one of a number of suppliers used at events.”