THE Marcliffe Hotel and Spa at Pitfodels has long been a favorite of Alex Salmond, who made Aberdeen’s only five-star hotel the backdrop to the turning points of his career.

In 2000, he used the family-run venue to announce he was stepping down as SNP leader, then four years later used it to tell the world he was back again.

And when the SNP won power in 2007, Mr Salmond spent election day at the Marcliffe.

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Less happily, the hotel was also the scene of his first sleaze scandal in office, when he met one of Donald Trump’s senior aides there to discuss the US tycoon’s controversial application for a golf course at Menie.

He also used the hotel regularly for political cabinets and other meetings, and for a series of media interviews in the 2014 independence campaign.

But now proprietor Stewart Spence, a long-term friend and SNP member for eight years, is on a collision course with Mr Salmond's successor after his business rates jumped by 25 per cent (£63,000), despite turnover falling 40 per cent (£3m).

Mr Spence, 69, said he had raised the problem in person with Mr Salmond.

He said: “I’ve been closely connected with the SNP for a long time because of my friendship with Alex Salmond. When I spoke to Alex last week, he said, ‘Oh Stewart, look how many businesses we have taken out of [rates]’.

“I said, ‘Yes, but all that means, Alex, is bigger businesses like ourselves are subsidising them.’ I said, ‘It’s just crazy... Every business should pay something but there’s no point robbing the bigger businesses to pay for the smaller ones.’”

Mr Spence went on: “Aberdeen has been decimated in the past two years, and it won’t change now. This is Aberdeen for the future. Even if there was slight upturn in oil, it would make so little difference. All these oil companies have learned to make huge cuts and savings and they’re not going to go back to the bad old days.”

Mr Spence said he and other hoteliers had complained to Finance Secretary Derek Mackay and his predecessor John Swinney, who they see as more business-friendly.

He said: “Unfortunately we don’t have any businessmen in the government. All of us feel it wouldn’t have happened if John Swinney had still been there. John Swinney would have discussed this with us. He would always ask people their opinions.

“Whereas the current finance minister just isn’t interested in speaking to anyone.”

Asked if the rates rises would have happened if Mr Salmond was in charge, he replied: “No, I don’t think so. Not at all. Derek has been allowed to go and make these decisions without consultation.”

Asked if he meant Nicola Sturgeon had “allowed” Mr Mackay to act that way, Mr Spence said: “Obviously. Without any thought. Nicola’s gone very quiet on the whole thing. She hasn’t been saying anything about it. It’s all been up to Derek to make the comments.

“I would rather she got involved. I’m a great admirer of Nicola, and I think she’s done a great job, but it’s just a case of banging heads together.”

Earlier this month, another North East hotel, the Banff Springs, was thrust into the political spotlight after a £50,000 rates hike forced it to increase room rates - first to complain was the local SNP branch, which threatened to take its business elsewhere.