The SNP have been accused of breaching the ministerial code by using a taxpayer-funded motorcade to pick them up after their party’s general election manifesto launch.
Five Secretaries – half the Scottish cabinet – and four ministers used seven government vehicles for the 45-mile ride from Perth Concert Hall to Edinburgh on May 30.
The code states that “official transport should not normally be used for travel arrangements arising from party business”.
The Scottish Government was last night unable to say if First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also used a vehicle from its £1m-a-year luxury car service after the manifesto launch.
The government defended the trips, which are revealed in newly published travel logs, on the basis ministers were travelling onward to official duties, with most going to Holyrood.
However Labour called it “an outrageous abuse” of public money for party political purposes, while the Scottish Tories said it “reeked of privileged complacency”.
The five cabinet secretaries were Education Secretary and deputy First Minister John Swinney, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay, Health Secretary Shona Robison, External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop and Rural Affairs Secretary Fergus Ewing.
Also picked up were Europe minister Dr Alasdair Allan, energy minister Paul Wheelhouse and mental health minister Maureen Watt.
It is understood Brexit minister Michael Russell shared the car for Mr Wheelhouse, and Ms Hyslop and Dr Allan also shared.
The ministerial code of conduct, which is policed by Ms Sturgeon, says ministers “must not use public resources for party political purposes” and “must be satisfied that their travel arrangements could be defended in public”, not least to reduce carbon emissions.
Tory MSP Miles Briggs said: “The public will be deeply uncomfortable at the idea of ministers swanning out of a party political event straight into taxpayer-funded cars.
“It’s the kind of hypocrisy the SNP is becoming renowned for.
“If it was one minister, attending one government event, you could probably forgive this as an oversight. But for half the cabinet to be involved reeks of privileged complacency.”
Labour MSP James Kelly said: “This looks like an outrageous abuse of taxpayer money by government ministers for party political purposes.
“It would be completely unacceptable if the taxpayer picked up the tab for SNP ministers to attend a manifesto launch during a General Election.
“People will be angry that Nationalist politicians used ministerial cars to ferry themselves from a manifesto launch.”
LibDem MSP Mike Rumbles added: “Experienced ministers should know better than to use ministerial cars to travel from SNP events.”
A government spokeswoman said: “The Government Car Service is available for the use of ministers and Cabinet Secretaries travel to and from government business. On this occasion, Ministers and Cabinet Secretaries were picked up and travelled to a variety of Ministerial engagements.
“We continually look for ways to minimise the use of cars for official journeys, for example, by car sharing as happened on this occasion.”
Source : HeraldScotland