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Lords, OBEs and a Tory dining club ... the people behind Better Together

ONE of Scotland's biggest sporting heroes was among the guests at an exclusive fund-raising dinner for the Conservative side of the pro-Union campaign, the Sunday Herald can reveal.

David Sole OBE, who led Scotland's famous victory over England in the Grand Slam decider of 1990 at Murrayfield, attended a black-tie Tory bash intended "to fight Alex Salmond's separatist agenda" just 72 hours after the launch of the Better Together campaign against independence.

Born in England but educated at Glenalmond public school in Perthshire, 50-year-old Sole was among 170 guests at the lavish £150-a-head event at Edinburgh's Signet Library on Thursday.

Scotland's most feared lawyer, Richard Keen, the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, whose ferocity in court earned him the nickname "Rottweiller", also hosted a £1500 table.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness, the former LibDem deputy first minister, was among Keen's guests.

The dinner, organised by the United & Cecil Club (U&CC), a Tory dining club based in Sussex, offered the first public glimpse of those funding Better Together, which was launched last Monday. It is understood the U&CC helped bring around 50 people from London and the southeast to the dinner, suggesting significant funding for Better Together is already from outside Scotland.

Scottish Tory treasurer James Stewart, who helped run the Signet Library bash, is a London-based director of private equity firm, ECI.

One of those present admitted the London money and attendees reflected the Tories' ever-declining support in Scotland. "I kept bumping into people from London, Cumbria, the Midlands. It was like a game of spot the Scotsman," the source said.

SNP campaign director Angus Robertson said: "The No campaign is a Tory-led campaign – the last thing that people in Scotland want is for it to also be a Westminster Tory-funded campaign. The decision on the future of Scotland is rightly a matter for people in Scotland."

Tory Education Secretary Michael Gove, the main speaker on Thursday, told the Sunday Herald the money raised would help support both the Scottish Tories and the Better Together campaign. Also present were hereditary Tory peer Lord Strathclyde, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, sole Scottish Tory MP David Mundell, former MSP Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, and U&CC chair and Tory MP for Braintree, Brooks Newmark.

Among the blue-chip firms represented was investment managers Brewin Dolphin, whose table included Owen Kelly, chief executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise and MSP Sir Jamie McGrigor.

Asked about his attendance, and whether he was pro-Union, Sole said: "Because I'm on the board of sportscotland and Quality Meat Scotland I'm not at liberty to pass any comment on any political issues. Thank you, bye."

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