Scotland politics

Call to investigate minister Richard Lochhead's hotel stay

Richard Lochhead
Image caption Richard Lochhead is Scotland's environment minister

Scotland's most senior civil servant, Sir Peter Housden, has been asked by Labour to investigate a minister's decision to accept a free hotel stay.

Richard Lochhead and his wife received dinner and an overnight stay at Castle Hotel in Huntly on 1 June last year, courtesy of energy company RES Ltd.

The firm was given planning permission for an 11-turbine Glenchamber wind farm in Wigtownshire on July 31 last year.

The Scottish government said there was "nothing to investigate".

A spokesman said: "Richard Lochhead does not have ministerial responsibility for wind farm planning applications and played no role in determining the Glenchamber application.

"On June 1, Mr Lochhead opened a wind farm for RES at Hill of Towie in his constituency in his capacity as local MSP. He received hospitality at the hotel and this was declared in the members' register of interests."

The decision to approve the wind farm project was taken by the Scottish government, after Dumfries and Galloway Council originally refused the planning application in 2011.

Labour's business manager Paul Martin has now written to the government's permanent secretary, Sir Peter, asking him to investigate Mr Lochhead's actions.

Mr Martin wrote: "I know Richard Lochhead to be a minister who takes his responsibilities seriously and I have no reason to doubt the integrity of the company involved.

"Yet, I am surprised at the poor judgement shown in accepting this hospitality when he must have been aware of this sensitive application.

"While Mr Lochhead does not have direct responsibility for planning, the nature of the application would have been of interest to his portfolio.

"At this time when public confidence has been damaged by the close relationship between lobbyists, business and senior politicians, I believe it would be appropriate for this to be investigated to remove any doubt of impropriety."

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