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Nicola Sturgeon spent taxpayers’ money on luxury travel firm that treats clients ‘like royalty’

Sturgeon
The £9,898 of spending on airport services for Ms Sturgeon had not previously been disclosed by civil servants - Peter Jolly

Almost £10,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent on luxury VIP travel services for Nicola Sturgeon, new figures have shown.

The costs were among more than £14 million of spending by Scottish civil servants on credit cards, which also included nail polish, yoga classes and a driving theory test for a staff member. Civil servants also purchased multiple copies of a book collection of Ms Sturgeon’s speeches with public funds.

The £9,898 of spending on airport services for the former First Minister, who was arrested in June as part of an unrelated investigation into SNP finances, had not previously been disclosed by civil servants.

The airport services are provided by a firm that promises to treat its clients “like royalty”. It offers to “whisk” customers through check-in and security, then to a VIP lounge and on to the awaiting flight.

Speaking at the Edinburgh Fringe on Tuesday, Humza Yousaf, Ms Sturgeon’s successor, said it was “fair to ask questions” about the revelations. He said he would ask John-Paul Marks, his top civil servant, to review whether the “right procedures” over spending were in place.

Michael Marra, Scottish Labour’s finance spokesman, said: “These are the spending habits of an arrogant and entitled government with no regard for taxpayers.

“The SNP is frittering away public money on frivolous purchases and VIP treatment while services are stretched to breaking point.

“The SNP must end their financial mismanagement that has plagued their government and start delivering for Scotland.”

Yoga classes and pregnancy tests

Annie Wells, A Scottish Conservative MSP, said: “It’s easy to see why the Scottish Government were reluctant to disclose Nicola Sturgeon’s diva-like tastes – but this cover-up is totally unacceptable.

“This was public money – so it is totally wrong that the true figures were not disclosed to taxpayers.

“Now that the truth has emerged, it’s up to Nicola Sturgeon to explain why she felt she deserved to be ‘treated like royalty’ at the public’s expense.”

The Scottish Government proactively publishes ministers’ travel costs but appears to have kept the price of Ms Sturgeon’s luxury airport treatment hidden.

It previously claimed the cost of travel and subsistence for Ms Sturgeon’s trip to Iceland, for the Arctic Circle Assembly, in October 2021 was £1,001.26. However, a “meet and greet” service for Ms Sturgeon and her staff at Dublin Airport, as part of her trip, was £1,605.07 alone.

The Scottish Government spent £1,271 on the VIP service for a trip to Brussels in February 2020 but previously claimed total travel and subsistence costs of the trip were just £1,033.51.

Officials bought six copies of Women Hold Up Half the Sky, a collection of Ms Sturgeon’s speeches which has previously caused controversy due to links between the publisher and the SNP government. Public funds were also used to buy 22 copies of a book titled How To Run a Government.

Edinburgh Festival tickets

Other spending included £130 on yoga classes, £41.35 at Amazon for “two pregnancy tests and five venturi masks”, £89.50 for 12 bottles of suntan lotion and £46.30 on 12 bottles of nail polish.

In 2020, £1,216.55 was spent on framing three pictures of the Declaration of Arbroath, a historic document that asked the Pope to recognise Scottish independence in 1320.

Meanwhile, £4.19 was spent on a copy of the Scottish Government’s 2014 independence prospectus, despite it being available free online.

Three events at the five-star Gleneagles Hotel cost taxpayers a further £5,200 over three months in 2019. The figures relate to spending between 2019 and last year. Other items included Edinburgh Festival tickets.

Senior civil servants are issued with credit cards by the Scottish Government. Purchases of more than £500 are published but Labour obtained data on all transactions.

Ms Sturgeon was criticised last month after it emerged that she had enjoyed a business class flight to London and stayed in a £515 hotel for her “farewell tour”, which included an appearance on Loose Women. The trip cost £1,230, though it is not known if VIP airport services were also used.

A dozen senior nationalists then used the Scottish Government’s taxpayer-funded car service to get home from Ms Sturgeon’s leaving party at an Edinburgh pub.

SNP Sturgeon purchases
SNP Sturgeon purchases

The purchases by the government are separate from the SNP’s spending, which is the subject of the Police Scotland investigation.

Ms Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell, who is the SNP’s former chief executive; and former party treasurer Colin Beattie have also been arrested and released without charge. Ms Sturgeon has strongly denied wrongdoing in relation to the criminal investigation.

Responding to the 58,000 credit card purchases by civil servants, a Scottish Government spokesman said the administration was “committed to delivering the best value for money for taxpayers”.

He added: “Spending through electronic purchasing cards is used to support government officials during their usual course of work such as on training, catering, room hire and one-off supplies.

“The cards are not for personal expenditure and there are robust authorisation and regular auditing arrangements are in place to monitor their use.

“For security reasons, we cannot comment on the first minister’s travel arrangements.”