An SNP minister was handed a prime speaking spot to promote his book at a literary festival funded through the Scottish Government department he runs.
But Angus Robertson cancelled his appearance last night – after the Sunday Mail started asking about the £30,000 handed to it by a group under his remit.
The event was awarded the significant grant in August from Creative Scotland – a government- funded and accountable body falling under Robertson’s brief.
He has now cancelled the lecture and an advert was quickly removed from the festival website after this newspaper began asking questions about it.
It had previously described Vienna – which costs £25 – as a “beautifully written, rich and extraordinary story” in an advert for the £11-a-ticket talk.
Opposition politicians have reacted angrily to our revelations.
Robertson took charge of culture affairs in May after becoming MSP for Central Edinburgh.
Lib Dem culture spokesman Joe McCauley said: “At the same time as the SNP takes a scythe to cultural centres in Glasgow, the Culture Secretary is trying to plug his book at a taxpayer-funded literary event.
“Sadly, anyone who can’t afford the £25 recommended retail price will be out of luck because his council colleagues want to close the libraries too. Scottish arts and culture ought to be for everyone.”
Scottish Conservative Shadow Culture Secretary Donald Cameron added: “Angus Robertson should be focused on our recovery from the pandemic rather than promoting his own book.
“While everyone wishes the Borders Book Festival to be a major success, eyebrows will be raised over the fact that the Culture Secretary was given a slot at an event which was awarded a funding boost by an agency overseen by the Scottish Government just a few months ago.”
Scottish Labour culture spokeswoman Sarah Boyack MSP said: “It’s hard to believe patrons of the Borders Book Festival were ever banging down the door to hear from Angus about his book.”
A Creative Scotland spokeswoman admitted the festival received funding.
She said: “Borders Book Festival received £30,000 National Lottery funding through Creative Scotland’s Open Fund.
“As is the case with all funding we provide, we do not seek to influence cultural organisations or festivals in their artistic programming.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman confirmed Robertson would no longer be appearing but made no further comment.
He was to speak at the event – which will be held in Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott on the banks of the River Tweed – on November 7.
The website stated: “In his beautifully written new book, he tells the story of how the city developed from a garrison town on the Roman Empire’s Danube frontier into an imperial capital in the 18th and 19th centuries.”
We revealed in September how the president of the SNP had attacked Robertson for failing to concentrate on “the day job” after he plugged Vienna online.
Mike Russell, who previously held Robertson’s Cabinet position in which he is supposed to be leading the fight for IndyRef2, said: “Hmm – might be a breach of MSP code too. And legitimate for people to ask what he is doing in the day job”.
Robertson won Edinburgh Central, the seat formerly held by ex-Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, at the Holyrood election in May. He was immediately handed a Cabinet job and has been tipped as a future party leader.
He was depute leader of the SNP from 2016 to 2018 and served as Westminster MP for Moray from 2001 to 2017.
He was leader of the SNP in the House of Commons from 2007 to 2011.
In August 2016 the former journalist was awarded the Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold for Services to the Austrian Republic.
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