MAJOR SNP backer Sir Brian Souter has not made any donations to the party since Nicola Sturgeon replaced Alex Salmond as leader.

The millionaire boss of transport giant Stagecoach dug deep for Salmond in two successive Holyrood elections, but he has yet to offer the same support to Sturgeon.

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: “Clearly Sir Brian’s millions were for Alex Salmond’s eyes only.”

Souter was an instrumental figure during Salmond’s leadership, providing over £2.5m to the SNP in eight years.

He donated £500,000 ahead of the breakthrough 2007 election that saw the Nationalists replace Labour in Government and gave £570,000 four years later.

Souter, a long-term independence supporter, also opened his chequebook during the referendum campaign by donating £1.4m to the SNP and £200,000 to Yes groups.

However, his financial support has always been controversial due to his socially-conservative views, particularly on homosexuality. In 2000, he enraged liberal-minded Scots by bankrolling the notorious Keep the Clause campaign, which was opposed to a gay rights measure in schools.

His initial donation in 2007 also came under scrutiny after it emerged the SNP had quietly dropped its policy of re-regulating the bus network.

An analysis of his registrable donations reveals his support to the SNP stopped in the month of the 2014 referendum – nothing has been given since Sturgeon took over weeks later.

He did not contribute to her successful 2015 general election campaign, or to the party’s Holyrood campaign in April.

His last donation was in late 2014 to a Liberal Democrat branch south of the border, to which he gave £3,500.

The Herald: Sir Brian Souter is on the billionaires list.

It is not clear why he has stopped donating to the SNP, but Sturgeon is more socially liberal than her predecessor and less likely to pursue an unashamedly pro-business agenda.

She criticised Keep the Clause in the early days of the Parliament and also dropped the Salmond policy of cutting corporation tax in an independent Scotland.

Last week Souter contradicted Sturgeon’s warnings about Brexit by saying that the fears about leaving the European Union may be overstated.

“I am not so negative on Brexit as others seem to be,” he argued.

“There will be some challenges, but our currency has adjusted…I just think we are overestimating the damage. Provided we get a settlement for our financial services sector we could be in a positive place.”

Souter added: “It [Brexit] is not as big a deal as people think. It will not have the impact that the financial crash, or a war in the Middle East will have on us.”

He has occasionally been linked to Sturgeon’s administration, such as when he appeared in newspaper reports earlier this year regarding the Government’s talks with a controversial Chinese company about investment.

However, despite the Souter donations drying up, the SNP’s huge membership means the party is not short of funds.

Carlaw said: “We know his investment has never sat comfortably with SNP high command, and perhaps Nicola Sturgeon made that a bit too clear.”

A Scottish Labour source said: “Alex Salmond repeatedly accepted donations from Sir Brian Souter, who holds unpleasant views about gay men and women. Labour has consistently said it is incumbent on the SNP to make it clear that such views are unacceptable.

“It is to be welcomed if Nicola Sturgeon has finally taken our advice on board.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “Nicola has met Sir Brian informally since becoming First Minister – he has been a generous contributor to the SNP over the years, and the party is grateful to him and to all supporters for contributing to our ongoing success.”

A spokesman for Souter did not provide comment.