ALEX Salmond has been forced to defend a meeting at his official Edinburgh residence with Britain's richest lottery winners who handed £1 million to the SNP.

The First Minister's chief aide reacted with fury yesterday after the meeting over tea at Bute House was compared to the Downing Street cash-for-access scandal.

It came after SNP-supporting Colin and Chris Weir, from Largs in Ayrshire, were invited to the property by Mr Salmond after they scooped the £131m EuroMillions jackpot last year.

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Details surfaced just days after David Cameron was hit by the resignation of Tory Party co-treasurer Peter Cruddas, who was caught on film suggesting would-be "significant" donors could not only expect access to the Prime Minister, but also be able to feed in policy ideas to Downing Street.

The Scottish Government billed the Weirs' meeting with Mr Salmond as one "between old friends" on September 9, at around the time they were giving £500,000 each to the party.

But whether it was part of soliciting the donation, or even a thank-you gesture, the tea party highlighted a loophole in the Scottish Government's disclosure rules – publishing guests at Bute House only if they received lunch, dinner or attended a drinks reception.

Labour's Paul Martin made the direct link to the Tory donations scandal, saying that, just like Mr Cameron, Alex Salmond used his official residence to entertain donors and then sought to keep it secret.

Mr Cameron last night caved in to pressure and published the lists of top Tory donors who have been invited to private meals at No 10 and the Prime Minister's country retreat at Chequers. The list of four dinners attended by 12 key donors and their wives and partners, who between them have given almost £18m to the Conservatives.

At Chequers, there were five lunches, bringing to 15 the total number of donors who have enjoyed Mr Cameron's private hospitality.

Mr Martin said: "Frankly, this stinks. It is time Alex Salmond was forced to come clear to the Scottish public about how he is abusing his position to raise funds for his party using public resources."

But Mr Salmond's official spokesman denied that the non-declaration of Bute House hospitality below the level of lunch, dinner or a formal reception amounted to a loophole, insisting it was perfectly correct to allow the First Minister leeway to meet friends.

The Weirs won their fortune last July and there was immediate speculation that, as SNP stalwarts, the party would benefit from their win. The Weirs had been party members for decades and Mr Weir once stood as a candidate and helped Mr Salmond produce a party broadcast.

The formal announcement of the donation came just four days after the Bute House visit.

The Government has, since 2007, issued quarterly details of those who attend events at Bute House.

However, the Weirs' visit was not recorded, prompting opposition claims that Mr Salmond wanted to hide the use of the taxpayer-funded residence for a meeting related to party fundraising.

The First Minister's most senior aide stormed: "It is patently absurd and ridiculous to make a comparison between what has been revealed at the Conservative Party, advising unknown businessmen how to get round illegal donations to secure invitations to Downing Street, and Alex Salmond having a meeting to catch up with old friends."

He added: "This administration publishes more than any other administration, but we don't publish information on cups of tea. What possible influence could the Weirs have been seeking? The First Minister is absolutely entitled to see people at Bute House, which is his residence when he is staying in Edinburgh."

But a letter from Mr Salmond congratulating the couple on their win, followed by the invitation to meet at Bute House, has been viewed in some quarters as efforts to seal the deal on the party donation and prompted the questions in the wake of the Tory scandal.