The cost of sending a delegation led by First Minister Alex Salmond to the Ryder Cup golf tournament in America was almost £470,000, the Scottish Government has said.

The trip in September was part of a plan to "maximise the economic benefits" of hosting the cup in Scotland in 2014, which the Government estimates will generate at least £100 million for the economy.

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Opposition parties criticised the cost as excessive.

In a written response to a question from Labour, External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop stated: "The overall cost of Team Scotland's participation at the 2012 Ryder Cup was £468,580 and every effort was made to minimise costs, including liaising with partner organisations to secure preferred rates where possible and identifying in-kind support.

"The Team Scotland approach in Chicago will help ensure we maximise the economic benefits of hosting the Ryder Cup in 2014 which will generate at least £100 million for the Scottish economy."

The tournament at Medinah, near Chicago, provided a "unique opportunity" to promote Scotland to a worldwide audience, she added. The visit incorporated ministerial visits and business meetings.

Labour MSP Patricia Ferguson said: "To find out that Alex Salmond's trip to watch the golf cost all of us almost half a million pounds is eye-watering.

"The Welsh Government can spend about the same, but attend three Ryder Cups. Why does Alex Salmond cost us so much more?

"This comes on top of the tens of thousands of pounds spent on his trip to the opening of Brave in California earlier this year.

"Alex Salmond has no shame. At a time of such severe cuts to public spending and thousands continue to lose their jobs, for Alex Salmond to be spending such sums is outrageous. Scots will rightly ask what world the First Minister inhabits."

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: "I am generally accepting of the First Minister's US trip, given that Scotland will host the next Ryder Cup.

"However, like most taxpayers, I am astonished that the costs incurred bear more relation to a head of state with a travelling circus than to the more modest expense which would have been appropriate and justifiable.

"It seems that even when using taxpayers' money, Alex Salmond doesn't do modest."