To ask the Scottish Executive whether the First Minister, his private office officials or any of his special advisers have had any contact by telephone or email with Mr Donald Macdonald or representatives of his company and, if so, what the dates of any such conversations or exchanges were, whether any matter referred to in the planning application in Aviemore in which Mr Macdonald or his company had an interest, or the adjudication of that application by the planning authority, or matters related to planning applications or roads in the Aviemore area, were referred to and what written records have been kept.
The only contacts are as follows:
A letter addressed to the First Minister from Mr Macdonald, dated 23 October 2007, was received by his constituency office in Inverurie on 24 October 2007 and passed to his Private Office by e-mail on 29 October 2007. As it provided background information on a planning application and as no action was required as a result of it, it was not drawn to the First Minister’s attention but was forwarded for a formal response by an official in the Planning Directorate, which was sent to Mr Macdonald on 20 November 2007.
As a follow up to this letter, the First Minister’s Constituency Office in Inverurie received e-mails from Mr Donald Macdonald’s office on 7 November 2007 and 13 November 2007 enclosing further correspondence Mr Macdonald’s company had exchanged with stakeholders in the planning process including the Cairngorms National Park Authority and The Highland Council. These were forwarded to his Private Office on 9 and 13 November respectively. As these were also for information and as they once again required no action, they were not drawn to the First Minister’s attention. The e-mail of 7 November was issued with a standard acknowledgement by Private Office staff; the e-mail of 13 November was not acknowledged .
On 7 December 2007 the First Minister, amongst others, received a briefing note on the Aviemore development applications which had been commissioned by Fergus Ewing MSP as the constituency member and was drawn up by Mr Macdonald’s agents. This was provided in the light of the representations made to the First Minister and other Ministers by Parliamentarians from four different parties the day before and elaborated on the information presented by the MSP’s.
Special advisers telephoned the communications officer for Mr Macdonald’s company on 27 January as a courtesy to make him aware of the statement made in response to newspaper articles, and on 9 January, 23 January and 7 February in connection with an invitation the First Minister had received to speak at a charity event, during which no matters pertaining to the Aviemore development were mentioned.