Conservative donor Lord Ashcroft has pledged a donation of £5 million to the fund to buy the Royal Family a new yacht to celebrate the Queen’s golden jubilee this year. The new vessel will cost around £80 million to build, and corporate sponsors and individual donors will be asked to contribute after the UK government ruled out using public funds to pay for the project.
The idea was mooted by Conservative Education Secretary Michael Gove. In an email leaked to the press earlier this year it was revealed that the Government was originally considering using public money to pay for the luxury yacht, as a ‘gift’ to the monarch. Mr Gove’s idea was met with anger as opposition parties and others pointed out that it was inappropriate to spend public money on such a project when vital public services are facing cutbacks due to spending cuts.
The plan was hurriedly changed and instead the Government announced that it would seek private sponsorship for the yacht. MPs including Tories Caroline Dinenage, John Redwood and Peter Bottomley, Labour’s Kate Hoey, and Lib Dems Mike Hancock, Andrew George and Bob Russell have signed a Commons motion in support of the project.
The Royal Yacht Britannia was decommissioned in 1997 and has since been berthed in Leith. Recently the yacht began to list after developing a leak in a door seal and taking on water. The yacht was moved to dry dock for repairs and on Saturday was returned to its usual berth at Ocean Terminal. The yacht will be re-open for visitors on 1 February.