Alex Salmond grilled on Gathering loan

The first minister has accepted that the government should have told other public bodies about a loan made to last year's troubled clan gathering.

The £180,000 loan given to the company organising the event in Edinburgh was written off after it went bust.

Alex Salmond was being quizzed by Holyrood's public audit committee, along with minister Mike Russell.

Mr Russell repeatedly denied the loan was "secret", although it was not disclosed at the time.

But both he and Mr Salmond accepted it would have been better if the agency EventScotland had informed members of the Gathering's steering group.

Although the Gathering went ahead, it lost more than £500,000 and owed £675,500 to creditors. However, Mr Salmond has always insisted he took decisive action to save an event worth £10m to the economy.

Spending watchdog Audit Scotland later said the Scottish government did not complete robust checks of the Gathering company's ability to repay the loan, or seek information from the Gathering's steering group members about the company and the event's status.

Audit Scotland also said other partners involved in the event were not told of the £180,000 because of a fear of negative publicity.

Mr Salmond told the committee: "Mr Salmond said: "We should have insisted on EventScotland informing the rest of the steering group about the loan. I think that's a perfectly fair point to make."

He added: "I would be surprised if other members of the steering group hadn't thought it a good idea because they would be as anxious as we were to secure the future of the event.

"But, nonetheless, I think it would have been proper for us to instruct EventScotland to inform the rest of the steering group.

"We didn't instruct EventScotland not to inform the steering group, incidentally."

Mr Russell, who is currently education secretary but was culture minister at the time, denied suggestions from former deputy first minister Nicol Stephen that a "secret loan" was made.

"It's not a secret loan," said Mr Russell, but he added: "The first minister was entirely right to say it would have been better had Event Scotland communicated that information to the other members of the steering group."

The Gathering was one of the main events of the government's year of Homecoming celebrations, last year.

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