Alex Salmond spends £48k on flights to Brave premiere in California

Alex Salmond spends £48k on flights to Brave premiere in CaliforniaRex

Alex Salmond spent almost £50,000 on flights for him and his entourage to attend the premiere of Brave in California, according to new figures.

Flights for civil servants accompanying the First Minister on the four-day trip to Los Angeles and San Francisco came to £48,000.

The figures, released under freedom of information legislation, also reveal that Scottish ministers and their civil servants have spent £8.4 million of taxpayers' money on a record number of flights since SNP took power five years ago, according to the Telegraph.

There have been 32,000 flights for SNP officials, with more than 4,000 business and first-class journeys all around the world.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Deputy First Minister, charged the taxpayer up to £564.25 for a return flight from Edinburgh to London last year, despite the fact flights can be bought for less than £100 with budget airlines.

Among other flight costs revealed are £5,500 for a civil servant to travel to Chicago and back and more than £20,000 on five business class tickets for officials to go to Doha and Abu Dhabi.

Alex Salmond: PA

Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Green Party co-leader, said: "SNP ministers like to lecture people about the need to be green but they fail to put their money where their mouth is.

"It's time they were brought down to earth and had to make do like the rest of us. When parliament debates the Budget later this year, we should place a cap on their travel costs."

A Scottish Government spokesman told the Telegraph they have cut the cost of air travel for official business by 44 per cent since 2006-7, adding: "Foreign travel is tightly controlled and business class only approved for long flights where it is necessary to deal with official business immediately upon landing."

Meanwhile, Alex Salmond has said the Disney-Pixar animated Brave, set in the Highlands, could boost tourism, giving a £140 million injection to the Scottish economy

He told the Daily Record: "This is a fantastic opportunity for tourism and outdoor activity businesses to build on the positive messages around this wonderful story and so give fans the ultimate Brave experience when they come to Scotland.

"Brave melds elements of our magnificent castles, iconic historic sites and sweeping landscapes into a feisty fairytale.

"The TV and film campaign will reach around 80million people and spread the word about the opportunities to be experienced here in the land of the Brave."

Scottish Scenic Routes
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Alex Salmond spends £48k on flights to Brave premiere in California

If you like an element of danger with your driving, The Pass of the Cattle (or Bealach na Ba, to give it it's proper Gaelic name) is the road for you. Hairy at the best of times, and completely impassable in bad weather conditions, the rewards for successfully navigating it are twofold : stunning views out to the Outer Hebrides and down to the bay at Applecross and feasting on locally caught seafood and whisky at the eponymously named Inn.

The road bridge may be quicker, but there's really only one way to drive to the Isle of Skye and that's over the sea from Glenelg via the Glenachulish, the only manually operated turntable ferry in Scotland. Take the ten mile narrow, winding road down to Glenelg, stop at the Inn for a pint or a night and then head across the Kylerhea straits (spotting otters if you're lucky), the closest point between the island and the mainland. (nb the ferry runs from Easter to October).

Single track past the delights of Assynt, with Stac Polaidh and Ben More mountains rising out of the lunar landscape made up of some of the oldest rocks on the planet. On past the Summer Isles where the view opens out over clear Atlantic ocean and, ahead, rising above your destination of Lochinver, Suilven, one of the most iconic of all Scottish hills.

50 square miles of uninhabited peat bog, moorland, lochs and lochans doesn't make for the most hospitable of landscapes so, unless you're a seriously hardy hiker, experience one of the last great wildernesses in Europe from the comfort of your car - driving across the western fringes of the moor on the A82.

As you drive along the A83 down the west side of the peninsula from Tarbert, much of the road runs directly alongside the Atlantic coast, with views out towards the islands of Islay and Jura. Stop a while to watch seals basking on the rocks and dolphins playing in the waves, and to stretch your legs on the miles of white sand beaches.

Perhaps it's the ghosts of the infamous massacre in 1692, perhaps it's the way the mist rolls down the Glen, parting occasionally to reveal craggy, foreboding peaks, but this one will get you every time. Driving from Glasgow to Fort William, you'll pass through it, but if you want to stop a while, there's a visitor centre or you can spend the night at the Clachaig Inn.

The A93 is not only, at the Cairnwell Pass, the highest road in the country, it also encompasses two royal places (Scone and Balmoral), a ski resort (Glenshee), moorland and, bizarrely, the tallest and longest hedge in the world - the Meikleour Beech Hedge, planted in 1745. The average height of the hedge is 100ft and it's said that it grows towards the heavens as the men who planted it were killed at the Battle of Culloden.

If, like me, you blindly follow satnav directions for Skye, you may find yourself driving this road twice in one day, when you realise there is actually no ferry from Mallaig to Skye that day and you need to drive back to Fort William and up to the Skye Road Bridge. Luckily, this is one of the most beautiful routes in the world and well worth a double drive.

Due to the ongoing shambles that is the construction of the tram network in the Scottish capital, driving in the city is currently a nightmare, but otherwise, there can be few cities in the world which provide such stunning views as Edinburgh. Driving north east up Leith Walk, the Firth of Forth glitters in the distance; coming in from the west, Arthur's Seat welcomes you to the city, while all around town, glimpses of Edinburgh Castle will take your breath away.

The Scottish lowlands often get overlooked in favour of the more dramatic Highlands, but there is some equally stunning, if gentler, scenery around the Borders, not least along the coastline towards Stranraer. Head west from Gretna along the A75 (recently afforded the dubious honour of  'Second best driving road in the UK') and you'll pass through rolling hills and farmland, coastline and through Castle Douglas, a designated 'food town', and the pretty market town of Newton Stewart.


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