A Scottish local authority more than doubled the amount spent on flying its staff around the world - despite being one of the first in the country to declare a climate emergency.

Renfrewshire Council splashed out over £23,000 on 65 flights during the 2018/19 financial year, according to figures obtained by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

The list of last year’s flights – the majority of which were domestic – includes almost 30 trips to London which cost more than £10,000, while a jaunt to San Francisco cost £2,276.

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Other destinations staff flew to included Munich and Paris alongside Manchester, Southampton, Birmingham and Dublin.

The local authority was the sixth in Scotland to declare a climate emergency amid a wave of international protests last year.

A freedom of information request highlighted the council splashed £23,053 on 65 flights during the year, compared to £10,212 in 2017/18 and £6,849 in 2016/17.

Maurice Golden, West of Scotland MSP, hit out at the local authority saying it was a “shocking example to set” in trying to protect the planet.

The Conservative representative said: “These figures are really eye-watering and seem to suggest Renfrewshire Council does not care when it comes to taking flights to where they have to go to.

“The fact the spending on flights doubled in just a year is a shocking way to treat the public purse.

“The SNP promised Renfrewshire voters they wouldn’t put up their council tax bills when they stood for election in 2017, yet again 2020 has seen them break that promise to the tune of a 4.64 per cent rise for every council tax payer.

“The SNP also talk a big game when it comes to climate emergencies but the reality, it seems, is far harder for them to carry out when they seem to want to step on a plane at any opportunity.

“Alternative means of transport need to be looked at where possible, especially domestically to stop this unacceptable frittering of money on so many flights.”

The figures emerged just as the council set its budget this week, which committed £1million to tackling the Climate Emergency and raised council tax bills by 4.64 per cent.

Councillor John Shaw, the council’s finance convener, said costs and availability are taken into consideration when booking flights.

He said: “To be lectured on the Climate Emergency by a Tory is quite something. Mr Golden obviously forgets that, during the very same year he’s highlighting, his party leader spent £20,000 on flights for a day trip to Afghanistan, solely to avoid a vote in Westminster. Comparing the council’s spend covering more than 8,000 employees with Boris Johnson’s expensive game of hide and seek perhaps helps put it in context.

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“All flights taken by council staff are booked on the basis of cost and availability. Many of the flights listed relate to carrying out our health and social care duties whilst with others it would be the only realistic way to travel; for example, the Scottish Attainment Challenge-funded visit by education staff to the USA to work with Stanford University on a ground-breaking maths attainment programme. 

“This has resulted in more than 170 pupils from six primary schools completing world-leading maths camps in Renfrewshire, with the local authority progress rated excellent in improving numeracy and literacy.”