Row over McColl's Tory supper
Sturgeon urged to axe tycoon from advisory group
Billionaire tycoon Jim McColl, who backed independence in 2014, was invited by a donor to attend the event organised by Tory backer Sir Jack Harvie.
Guests paid £25,000 to attend the exclusive event, though Mr McColl told the Sunday Herald that he did not pay and was there as a “plus one”.
The Glasgow-born businessman, who has invested millions into Scottish business and education, has been a supporter of the SNP.
Sir Jack’s private supper at his home near Milngavie is understood to have attracted about 15 wealthy guests whose contributions will go to the Tory party. Apart from Mrs May, it was also attended by Scots Tory leader Ruth Davidson.
Mr McColl, now a resident of Monaco, told the newspaper: “I was invited along by a Tory donor and I was intrigued to meet Theresa May and just listen to what she had to say. So I went along and it was a very interesting evening.”
He said he did not pay to attend the dinner: “I didn’t [pay]. I was invited by a donor.” He added: “I was a plus one.”
However, Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Greens’ co-convener, called for the Scottish government to reconsider Mr McColl’s role on its Council of Economic Advisers.
Sir Jack Harvie has raised millions of pounds for the Tories through his Focus on Scotland organisation which has held some of the biggest black tie gatherings in the country. It has usually been attended by the incumbent Prime Minister.
Daily Business comment: Jim McColl’s attendance at a Conservative party fund-raiser, even as the guest of a donor, understandably fuels suspicions that he is wavering in his support for independence or the SNP.
Nicola Sturgeon will be alarmed if one of Scotland’s most prominent businessmen and investors – who is also one of her key advisers – is no longer committed to the cause. He has pumped money into her party and, as one of Scotland’s richest men, he is one of its key flag-wavers to a wider audience.
Mr McColl says he went along to learn something. He did not pay, which suggests he was maintaining some neutrality about his attendance. It might even be seen as something of a gift horse for the SNP. After all, who could turn down a ‘spy in the camp’ opportunity to learn something about the private thoughts of opposition senior politicians and their advisers?
It is not unusual for opposition politicians – let alone business people – to attend each other’s events, usually as interested observers.
Mr McColl may be an SNP adviser and donor, but he is not beholden to the party. His interests cover a much broader canvas and he has a legitimate reason for wanting to know about any political party’s plans which may impact on his business activities.