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Sumo suits, space hoppers, toy cars and a baguette relay race ... just another busy day at Scottish Enterprise away day

SCOTTISH Enterprise, the country's jobs quango, has been criticised for spending £125,000 last week on staff events that included bizarre games with water pistols, hobby horses, remote control cars and space hoppers.

Scottish Enterprise shelled out the cash for staff bonding sessions which also included Sumo wrestling in fat suits as part of a pretend "Olympics" event.

A recent Lloyds TSB Scotland report painted a gloomy picture of the economy in Scotland, with more than one-third of firms surveyed confirming falling revenue. It was also revealed private-sector growth in Scotland had slipped "well below" the UK average in August.

Despite the economic situation, the public body tasked with helping businesses used its time to stage staff away days. Wednesday's event catered for up to 1000 employees at SE and its overseas wing, Scottish Development International. Twenty-four hours later, the international staff had a standalone event.

Staged at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow, participants were welcomed by quango chief executive Lena Wilson and listened to a ministerial address by Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop.

Speeches were followed by "breakout" sessions and a "networking lunch". Staff then attended an outdoor barbecue and an event involving "Olympic-style" challenges.

A leaked itinerary shows staff took part in a series of games that appear to have a questionable link to boosting economic growth.

One of the 13 activities offered was "swimming", which involved staff lying on a skateboard and propelling themselves with their hands and feet. The "swimming relay" was almost identical, but with a "long French loaf" being used as the baton.

Scotland's job-creators also had the option of "three-a-side football" using tricycles and a beach ball, while "hammer throwing" involved a large sock and a ball of tin foil.

Rowing enthusiasts were also catered for in the "boat race", which involved a large cardboard box.

Other events involved a game with remote-controlled cars, "running" with space hoppers, and shooting Irn-Bru cans with water rifles.

Sumo wrestling was also encouraged, with the winner being the person who could pin down the opposing player for five seconds.

A "pentathlon" was offered, but not in the sense widely known in the athletics world: "Up the room dash on the tricycle, followed by down the room lying on a skateboard, up the room dash on the hobby horse, followed by a down the room dash on a space hopper, completing with a 5-shot shoot at Irn-Bru cans."

While these games were being played, Finance Secretary John Swinney was in Holland, in a bid to save 1700 Scottish jobs at a meat-processing plant in Broxburn.

Labour MP Graeme Morrice said: "Scottish Enterprise should be doing everything to help businesses, create jobs and boost economic growth. I don't see how playing with space hoppers meets these objectives. Alex Salmond has to get a grip of this quango."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "Team building is important but this seems an excessive cost, especially at a time when money is short.

"The Scottish Government needs to explain how this could be considered the best use of taxpayers' money."

A spokesperson for Scottish Enterprise said: "Scotland reaps huge benefits from the strength and quality of our overseas staff who sell our country across the globe.

"Many of them are foreign nationals and we bring them to Scotland every two years for a programme of meetings and training to continue to deliver in the best way possible."

Referring to the so-called Olympics event, he added: "We held a fun social event as a way to bring different cultures together. It was staged out of office hours, staff were given the choice to attend and almost all of the equipment was borrowed from staff members. It cost £200, which works out at less than £1 per head."

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