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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 January 2008, 15:23 GMT
Planning concern move 'in order'
Macdonald resort, Aviemore. Picture by Macdonald Hotels
The development will be located at Aviemore's Highland Resort
The Scottish Government has denied accusations of inappropriate conduct over the approval of an 80m Highland holiday resort development.

Ministers contacted environment bosses and the chief planner after Macdonald Hotels threatened to scrap the plans for Aviemore, because of a delay.

Labour said the government was overstepping the mark by intervening on an individual issue.

But ministers insisted their actions had saved hundreds of vital jobs.

The government also said it acted following a strong cross-party lobbying campaign, which raised concerns of a communication breakdown between the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) and the developer.

The previous government would have let 300 jobs go before Christmas in the Highlands
Mike Russell
Environment Minister

Environment Minister Mike Russell, who contacted Sepa bosses over the issue, said his actions were in order, and is now seeking permission to publish the representations he received from Highland politicians, including Labour Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant.

The development, approved by Cairngorms National Park Authority in December, will include two supermarkets and about 160 houses in Aviemore's Highland Resort.

The status of Macdonald Hotels chief executive Donald Macdonald as an SNP donor has raised further questions.

Labour public services spokesman Andy Kerr told BBC Scotland's Politics Show that ministers should have handled the situation better and their role with national agencies should not go beyond setting overall policy.

Local concern

"I find it very odd that the agencies that are designed to protect us as a community in Scotland - the environment agency Sepa and planning authorities - are being used in this manner and getting phone calls which I consider inappropriate," he said.

Responding to the claims, Mr Russell said: "We worked every hour of every day to make sure that if there was anything we could do to help, we would help.

"The previous government would have let 300 jobs go before Christmas in the Highlands," said the minister, who added that donations to the SNP had been declared in the proper way.

First Minister Alex Salmond said he asked government chief planner Jim Mackinnon for information on the Aviemore application after he was contacted by local politicians - and insisted the move had not breached the ministerial code of conduct.

SEE ALSO
Park resort master plan approved
14 Dec 07 |  Highlands and Islands
Aviemore's future vision outlined
27 Sep 05 |  Scotland
Aviemore revamp plans unveiled
18 Dec 02 |  Scotland

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