THE Scottish Government asked a controversial tycoon who shunned the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon to help arrange a dinner with business leaders at a five-star hotel.

Brian Souter, who campaigned to keep a ban on teaching about LGBT in Scottish schools, is a former party donor who broke away from the SNP in 2014 when Sturgeon took over but has never publicly said why.

The social conservative tycoon, one of Scotland’s richest men, was one of the party’s largest donors under Alex Salmond.

The move could cause tension with the SNP’s partners in Government the Scottish Greens, as co-leader Patrick Harvie had been a harsh critic of Souter, alongside LGBT charities.

READ MORE: HMRC doesn't know how many Scotland Office staff work in Edinburgh hub

And now, Politico reports that a Freedom of Information (FOI) release shows that Souter has been courted by Humza Yousaf’s aides, who asked him to help organise a dinner to repair ties between business and government.

The emails, which have not yet been published on the Scottish Government’s website, reportedly show that senior advisers to the First Minister liaised with Souter to arrange a dinner in Edinburgh in the summer of 2023.

Souter founded bus company Stagecoach and is one of Scotland’s richest men. He led an unsuccessful campaign to keep Section 28, a law banning teachers from discussing gay rights and homosexuality in Scottish schools, in the early 2000s.

Yousaf’s chief of staff Colin McAllister and an aide to Souter exchanged emails on the topic of a possible dinner in summer 2023 as part of the First Minister’s bid to reset relations with the business sector.

The National:

According to the emails obtained by Politico, McAllister suggested a potential list of attendees for the dinner to Souter’s aide, who replied that “Brian is happy with the proposed list below”.

The aide is understood to work for Souter Investments LTD, the tycoon’s firm.

Yousaf’s aide then said Souter “offered to reach out to some people”, adding: “I will leave it to you guys to judge who that might be but we would be very grateful if he could nudge people as he feels appropriate.”

Souter’s aide replied: “Brian is fine with reaching out to people once we have the date in the diary.”

The “Business Leaders Dinner” eventually went ahead on July 27 last year at Prestonfield House in Edinburgh.

READ MORE: LBC: Israeli ambassador to UK says EVERY Gaza building is a target

Yousaf, Souter, Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray, former managing director of DC Thomson Ellis Watson, and McAllister are all listed as attending, as well as nine other figures whose names were redacted from the information release.

Souter’s aide also reportedly tried to book the luxury hotel on the Scottish Government’s behalf, a move politely declined by McAllister.

Scottish Government minutes circulated after the dinner showed Yousaf told attendees that “engagement with business has already highlighted the need to involve business more effectively in policy".The National: Sir Brian Souter

Business leaders were also invited to raise issues with the First Minister and his “wider ministerial team in the future”.

A Scottish Government spokesperson told Politico that “ministers routinely engage with a wide range of business leaders as a normal part of government".

They added that Yousaf “has been clear since taking office that resetting the relationship between government and business is a priority".

Souter, a Scottish independence supporter, donated more than £2.5 million to the party between 2007 and the 2014 referendum.

However, he has not donated since, with the party under Sturgeon relying on monthly fees paid by a membership that swelled after the referendum vote.

READ MORE: Prince Andrew named in fresh Jeffrey Epstein documents

When it emerged in 2007 that Souter had donated £50,000 to the SNP, Scottish Greens co-leader Harvie was one of those who criticised the party for accepting the cash.

When Souter said he would match individual donations to the SNP up to £500,000 in 2011 as part of its Scottish Parliament election campaign, Harvie did not hold back on the criticism.

"The campaign against Souter's bigoted agenda inspired me to get into politics, and any principled party would have told him where to stuff his money,” he said at the time.