City slated for celeb payments

David Wilkie at the Commonwealth Pool opening in August 2012. Picture: Greg Macvean
David Wilkie at the Commonwealth Pool opening in August 2012. Picture: Greg Macvean
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CRITICS have hit out at the “wasteful spending” of public money after it emerged thousands of pounds have been squandered on celebrity appearances at Edinburgh functions.

New figures reveal payouts were made to Olympic swimming legend David Wilkie, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and panto star Grant Stott for speaking at events, opening ceremonies and voice-over work. None of the fees paid by the city council were donated to charity.

Mr Wilkie – who won Olympic gold for the 200-metre breaststroke in Montreal in 1976 – banked £3000 plus travel expenses after being hired to re-open the Royal Commonwealth Pool in March 2012.

Former Scotland rugby international Scott Hastings earned a £500 fee to be master of ceremonies at the same event.

It emerged that hotel and chauffeur expenses totalling almost £2000 were paid for Steve Wozniak’s booking to speak at the Turing Festival in August 2012 – for which he also received £1116.

The payouts are in stark contrast to Sir Chris Hoy – Britain’s greatest Olympian – who declined payment for the honour of switching on this year’s Christmas lights in ­Edinburgh.

The data, released under Freedom of Information legislation, shows that broadcaster Bill Torrance pocketed £200 plus VAT for performing a voice-over for the tram promotional video while entertainers Grant Stott, Boogie and Grant Lauchlan have earned a combined £8610 since 2010 for hosting ceremonies, family fun days and voice-over work.

Taxpayer Scotland branded the payments “wasteful”.

Director Eben Wilson said: “With many hard-working families struggling to make ends meet, seeing taxpayers’ money being used like this is outrageous. Our councils desperately need to think more imaginatively than dipping into the celebrities handbook and seeing how much of our money they can spend on aggrandising themselves.”

A council spokesman, said: “Steve Wozniak was a major draw to the [Turing] festival which as a result was profiled throughout the world.

“The reopening of the Royal Commonwealth Pool was a hugely significant milestone for the city, and it was fitting that David Wilkie should be involved.

“There is no question that he raised the profile of a hugely successful opening and provided inspiration to the many schoolchildren present.”

david.mccann@edinburghnews.com