First Minister Alex Salmond out looking for a new deli. He insists on
finding his own catering suppliers for his Bute House residence
Scottish news: Salmond tea party row escalates
Scottish Times Exclusive: Salmond tea party row escalates
Only days after Alex Salmond defended an undisclosed tea party with Britain's richest lottery winners who then handed £1 million to the SNP, it has emerged that pastries may also have been served at the First Minister's official residence.
In a sensational new twist to the tea party story, Scottish Times has been contacted by a Bute House catering firm's employee, who reveals that the tea may have been "accompanied by powdered beignets, Dutch oliebollens and hand-crafted doughnut babas".
The catering employee Alan Dulce - a driver - who delivers on behalf of the most exclusive pâtisseries and delicatessens in Scotland approached our newsdesk via twitter and when contacted for details said: "This could hurt our firm's turnover but I can't just stand by and watch politicians fritter away taxpayers' money on elite banquets."
Mr Dulce's tweet:
Until now, SNP spokespersons have held the line that the tea party complied with the Scottish Government's disclosure rules which states that details of guests at Bute House must be published only if they received lunch, dinner or attended a drinks reception.
The inclusion of pastries with the tea means disclosure rules may indeed have been broken as the 'tea reception' should have been reclassified as a 'tea banquet'. Also, given that rum is a key ingredients in babas, according to Mr Dulce, the banquet may also be regarded as a drinks reception.
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Earlier in the week Salmond's chief aide, Duncan Decaffrey, reacted angrily after the tea banquet at Bute House was compared to the Downing Street cash-for-access scandal.
Mr Salmond had written a letter to David Cameron criticising him over the “cash-for-access” scandal involving the Prime Minister hosting private dinners with Tory donors at Downing Street and Chequers and insisted “no fund-raising activities take place in Bute House”.
Accusations of hypocrisy have intensified because the tea party was not included in an official register of the First Minister’s guests at Bute House. The claims were fueled when it emerged that only four days after the premium tea reception last year, Chris and Colin Weir - who won a record £161 million playing the Euromillions lottery - donated £500, 000 each to the Nats' referendum war chest.
The SNP's chief spin doctor had stated that all guest names are “proactively published” on the Scottish Government’s website but later seemed to contradict himself by saying that if it is only for tea, meetings do not require to be declared.
Opposition parties have said Salmond was determined to “embrace sleaze” by using his position to raise money for the SNP and that the pastry development adds a new layer to the scandal now being dubbed "Dosh for Donuts".
The delivery driver who works for the Holyrood Trifle Company - a Scottish subsidiary of Bake n' Take Holdings Ltd - talked exclusively to Scottish Times and told us that on the morning of September 9 when Salmond had his meeting with the Weirs he delivered a box of cakes to the FM's official residence.
Details of the tea party story first emerged just days after David Cameron received the resignation of Tory Party co-treasurer Peter Cruddas, who was caught on film suggesting potential "significant" donors could, on top of gaining access to David Cameron, suggest policy initiatives to the Prime Minister.
A senior official source told Scottish Times that "there is no real difference between being caught offering influence over Government legislation and being caught offering a pastry. Mr Salmond can try to suger coat this as a minor infringement of the code or a mere trifling matter but the principle is exactly the same and in some ways more unpalatable."
Calls for enquiry
The revelations have led to calls for a full official investigation. The Labour Party has written to Dame Elish Angiolini, Scotland's former Lord Advocate, requesting she initiate an enquiry into whether Mr Salmond broke the code of conduct governing Scottish Ministers by holding the banquet at his official residence in Edinburgh.
An opposition spokesperson said: "This new information about doughnuts blows a hole in the SNP's tea party story which seemed to have a false ring to it all along.
"The fact that they had to be brought into Bute House carefully concealed in a box shows Alex Salmond will go to any lengths to hide the truth from the Scottish people. Was it a doughnut or a meringue? It's six and half a dozen but we know there was a box of pastries and we need to prize open the lid on Salmond's grubby culture of toffee-nosed cronyism.
"Scotland is a maturing democracy and the electorate will not swallow the SNP's half-baked cover story. If the Weirs ate the donuts the rules may have been broken so it is in the public's interest to have full disclosure over who exactly ate all the doughnuts.
"Firstly, the SNP have shown their contempt for the Scottish people, who are not exactly experiencing an economic picnic, by their infantile attempt at humour by calling this a "storm in a tea cup". Well, voters now know Salmond is in a "bun fight". Tea may not have to be recorded in the register but this convenient loophole does not extend to doughnuts and so voters can see right through this hollow Nat spin.
"Only a few days after meeting the Weirs the SNP were gifted £1m by the couple and so we are seeking an enquiry with real teeth to get to the bottom of whether or not these doughnuts were used as a donation sweetener.
"While we are fighting for jobs and recovery Salmond's half-baked, nutty, pie-in-the-sky separation plans have been foiled. Separatism would mean the wealthiest get to cream the people and sponge off hard-pressed taxpayers. In terms of votes this will cost the SNP hundreds and thousands. Salmond is away with the fairies as he is literally saying 'let them eat cake'"
Earlier in the week a spokesman for the FM seemingly downplayed the claims arguing that Labour were in an electoral jam and were trying to stir up a tea party controversy to distract voters but Mr Salmond's representative avoided any mention of doughnuts. He said:
"They [the Weirs] were having a cup of tea as old friends. But what makes Labour’s complaint even more absurd is it so happens that Mr Salmond has his own stock of tea at Bute House and always has had, because of his liking for Scottish Blend and Chinese tea. Labour’s complaint really is the dregs in the cup.”
Paul Martin, Scottish Labour’s business spokesman, said before the banquet story broke: “This would appear to be an abuse of the ministerial code of conduct and has to be investigated by the independent advisers.
“It is not befitting of someone holding the office of First Minister to chase after lottery winners and hold tea parties for them at his official residence in a bid to secure donors for his separation campaign.”
He said it would be “hypocritical” for Mr Salmond to criticise David Cameron for abusing his office for party purposes only to do the same.
Sources close to the First Minister told Scottish Times last night that the donation has proved to be both sweet and sour for Mr Salmond who is concerned the 'Dosh for Donuts' scandal may snowball forcing the SNP to postpone the launch of their 'Yes' campaign for the Nats' separation vote.
It has emerged that Scotland's mainstream media faces the threat of a blanket interdict in the Court of Session due to its role in "deliberately hyping up the tea party controversy".
The threat comes from a popular, online pro-SNP fanzine blog which accuses "all of them" for "deliberately disseminating" what they call a "non-story".
"Being open and accountable in public life is a moral prerequisite which should be applied to the Scottish Government but also to the media." said the editor speaking under the strict condition of anonymity. He added:
"The anti-independence media regularly plan carefully orchestrated conspiracies against Scotland's Party.
"This is not about whipping up hysteria - it really does drive myself and many of my readers to authentic collective apoplexy on a regular basis.
"Our readers expect us to expose media bias against Scotland. We are closely monitoring the news output and will report again that the Scottish media really is in very, very big trouble this time. We don't know exactly how, they just are."
A spokesperson for the Unionist mainstream media confirmed that at a meeting yesterday a group of anti-independence outlet editors were "ashen-faced" and looked "genuinely terrified".
One media expert has forecast that after decades of controversy over its role as a public sector broadcaster even the BBC - the world's most recognisable media brand - may see its state charter finally being revoked under the weight of these allegations.
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