Scottish Political Correspondent
POWER brings many perks, but a stuffed toy rat, curried mackerel and a papier mache model of Alex Salmond were perhaps not what ministers would have put at the top of their wishlists.
The gifts were among a treasure trove received by SNP ministers since the party came to power in May 2007.
Mr Salmond, the First Minister, received signed football shirts, tea from India, cufflinks, a scarf, a collection of CDs, food and fish hampers from the House of Beauly and chocolates, all of which he gladly accepted.
But other gifts - including the papier mache puppet, from the Cantilena Children's Art Festival on Islay, and the toy rat, from the Oriental studies academic Lady Mirrlees, he has decided not to take home.
He did, however, put a translation of the National Conversation white paper from the vice-president of Catalonia on his bookshelf.
The list of the hundreds of items received by ministers since Mr Salmond and his party took power up to 28 January this year was obtained under a freedom of information request, which took the Scottish Government more than eight months to answer.
Some eyebrows have been raised that eight out of the nine ministers offered alcohol accepted the gifts for themselves, despite planning an offensive on Scotland's booze culture.
Mr Salmond is the only one to have refused alcohol, but John Swinney, the finance secretary, pocketed three bottles of whiskey and a bottle of vodka, while Nicola Sturgeon, the health secretary, accepted champagne and caviar from the Russian consulate general.
Richard Baker, Labour's justice spokesman, said this was "highly hypocritical", considering the SNP wanted to stop under-21s buying alcohol from off-licences.
"They really have an unbelievable gall to tell young people they can't buy alcohol and then happily take free booze themselves," he said. "It seriously undermines what they have been saying about tackling the problems of alcohol."
Ms Sturgeon has also had to defend having received a cooler bag full of drinks from Coca-Cola, at a time when the Scottish Government was trying to stop fizzy drinks being sold in schools and on government property. Her spokesman said the drinks were fruit juice and water.
But little equals the haul that came from rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead's trip to Brussels on 19 December last year, where he picked up a great deal more than new freedoms for Scottish trawlermen.
The minister managed to walk off with a bottle of sparkling wine and apples from the UK fisheries minister, Jonathan Shaw, 24 cans of beer and lager from the Danes, a bottle of Bushmills whiskey from the Irish and some salami and cheese from the Dutch. All of which found its way to his fridge and drinks cabinet at home.
Mr Lochhead is no stranger to taking home free delicacies, which at various points have included curried mackerel, fudge, cheeses and a tin of Greek sweets.
His junior minister, Mike Russell, has also done well from gifts, and the list has revealed his penchant for Cuban cigars - he received a box of them from the Parliamentarians for Cuba.
Adam Ingram, the children's minister, received an iPod from Young Scotland, while his colleague Bruce Crawford, the SNP business manager, was given an MP3 player by Manchester City Council.
Rules and regulations regarding official presents
SCOTTISH Government rules mean ministers can accept gifts on two conditions: first, that it is valued at less than £140 and second, that it does not appear as a conflict of interest in an important decision a minister is due to make.
Several of the more desirable items have been put on public display or use in government offices. The most high-profile is a painting of Linlithgow Palace by John Lowrie Morrison, given to Alex Salmond, the First Minister, and used on his Christmas card last year. Even if gifts are not accepted by the minister for personal use, they need to be declared and a record of what has happened of them needs to be kept.
Among the alcohol offered to Mr Salmond were eight bottles of whisky, which he put aside to be used for entertaining guests at official functions.
Ministers also have to declare gifts in kind. One gift to John Swinney, the finance secretary, was a lift on a helicopter while he was in the United States.
The problem many opposition politicians have with the register of gifts is that it is dependent on the Ministerial Code. This is self-regulatory and the final arbiter on what can be accepted or whether the code has been broken is the First Minister. Mr Salmond has bowed to pressure to have some independent scrutiny of these decisions by setting up a board of former presiding officers to offer advice when he requests it.
The weird and the not so wonderful - who got what
Signed Barcelona, Hearts and Homeless Scotland World Cup football shirts - kept by First Minister
Papier mache puppet of the First Minister from Cantilena Children's Art Festival - on display
Choosing Scotland's Future, A National Conversation - Translated Spanish version from vice-president of the government of Catalonia - retained for use by minister
Stuffed toy rat from Lady Mirrlees (academic) for Chinese New Year (year of the rat) - kept in ministerial office
Champagne and caviar from consulate general of Russia, kept by deputy First Minister/ health secretary
Cool bag with samples of Coca-Cola products (drinks) from Coca Cola, kept by Nicola Sturgeon
Three bottles of whisky (from chambers of commerce) and a bottle of vodka (from Russian consulate general), kept
IPod from Young Scotland, kept
24 tins of curried mackerel from International Fish Canners, kept
On 19 December, 2007 - 12 cans of lager and 12 of beer from Danish minister; apples and sparkling wine from UK fisheries minister Jonathan Shaw; bottle of Bushmills from Irish minister; salami and cheese from Dutch minister - all kept for personal use
Box of cigars from parliamentarians from Cuba, kept
£ 100 of book tokens from Edinburgh University, kept
Monday, October 13, 2008