GREEN Minister Lorna Slater’s private boat charter to the Isle of Rum cost a whopping £1,200 – 16 times the price her team would pay on the regular ferry.
The Tories tonight accused her of “no shame” after rejecting the £75 government CalMac service, forcing taxpayers to spend hundreds of pounds.
At the time, officials said using the private boat would “maximize” their time on rum.
However, she was accused of double standards at a time when ministers’ handling of ferry services on the islands had been heavily criticized.
Now, a Freedom of Information request by Scottish Conservatives has revealed the Circular Economy Secretary’s Group was made an offer of £1,200 for the private catamaran from Mallaig, Inverness-shire, to the island last month.
Yesterday NatureScot, the Holyrood agency for which it is responsible, confirmed that this is exactly what has been paid.
Scottish Tory transport spokesman Graham Simpson said: “Lorna Slater obviously knows no shame.
“The government to which she belongs has caused chaos in the Scottish ferry network through incompetence.
“Nevertheless, she thought it fair to shy away from a CalMac ferry for less than £10 a head to spend £1,200 of public money on a chartered boat.
“It is completely deaf to the plight of the islanders who have to make do with a pathetic ferry service.
“It is also the height of hypocrisy from a Green Minister who constantly calls for greater use of public transport.”
We told how Ms. Slater had chartered the 42-passenger catamaran MV Larven from Western Isles Cruises and was seen boarding along with seven other people.
Some were not Scottish Government employees, but even if the taxpayer had paid for CalMac’s return air fare for them all, it would have cost just £75.20 in total.
Ms. Slater spent around five hours with rum on Friday, May 12.
CalMac’s timetable shows that if she had traveled by ferry on a Wednesday, she could have spent five hours and 10 minutes on the island.
Last month, the Scottish Government announced that Ms Slater was “travelling with members of the Isle of Rum Community Trust, NatureScot and government officials on a charter tour operated by Western Isle Cruises”.
A government spokesman said the charter would “maximize time on the island and support a small local business”.
As Ms. Slater boarded the private charter, our reporter asked her a series of questions as to why she felt such a move was necessary.
But she refused to answer them.
Yesterday the Scottish Government said: “The trip was organized by NatureScot who made travel arrangements to the island.”
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