SCOTTISH council officials have spent thousands of pounds travelling the world visiting twin towns at taxpayers' expense.

Among the trips paid for by the public purse in just two years were jaunts to Russia, China and America.

European journeys were most common, while one senior Glasgow council official billed the taxpayer for a flight to the Caribbean, for a trip to Havana, Cuba.

West Lothian Council sent a woodwind instructor on a British Airways flight to Texas.

The figures, which have emerged under a Freedom of Information request, have sparked concern at a time when the allocation of public money is under constant scrutiny and some services have been cut.

Eben Wilson, of pressure group TaxpayerScotland, said he believed council officials were "living on another planet with respect to spending".

He said: "We are again seeing a total lack of care for our money.

"Can officials not get to grips with how someone poorer than them, and in need of social support, feels about these trips, particularly when there is supposedly no more money for what voters expect from local and central government?

"The sheer number of these jollies tells us they see their jobs very differently from what taxpayers want them to focus on."

Glasgow City Council paid £11,815 on flights to visit twin cities including Turin, Italy; Marseille, France; and Havana in Cuba. More than a dozen trips were also taken to Rostov-on-Don, southern Russia.

Perth and Kinross's former provost John Hulbert also flew a small delegation to Russia, at a cost of £1300, to visit Perth's sister city Pskov. Mr Hulbert also visited Aschaffenburg, Germany; Perth, Ontario; and Haikou, off the southernmost tip of China, on flights that cost more than £5000.

The largest individual spend was by West Lothian Council, which paid £3747 sending three senior officials - and a woodwind instructor - to Livingston's sister town Grapevine, Texas. Other twin cities visited by Scottish councillors include Voisin, Bron, and Aubigny, France, and Gifhorn and Munich, Germany.

In total, Scotland's 32 local authorities spent £2 million on air fares for more than 8000 domestic and international flights to fly staff around on day-to-day business between 2010 and 2012. At least £40,000 of that was spent sending dignitaries abroad to visit twin towns and cities.

However, the true total is likely to be far higher since most councils only released a fraction of the flights taken, or refused to break down the nature of the trips, while no details were given about the cost of hotels and other spending on the ground.

Officials in West Lothian insisted the link with Grapevine, formed in 2008, had "delivered a wide range of education, sport, culture and economic benefits".

A spokesman said: "Our trip in 2012 aimed to focus on education, finance and economic development, so a representative was chosen from each of these services, as well as two teaching staff to accompany young musicians and golfers also involved in the exchange. A group booking of five economy flights was made as the most cost effective option."

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: "Business trips are an important part of the work of the council in our efforts to promote the city elsewhere in the UK and internationally. The money we attract to the city from overseas far outweighs expenditure on flights."

A spokeswoman for Perth and Kinross Council said: "These links benefit Perth and Kinross in a range of ways, for example by encouraging cultural and educational development."