by TOM GORDON SCOTTISH POLITICAL EDITOR
ONE of Scotland's most successful children's charities is being wound up after its high-profile founder confessed to being a sex addict.
TheL 6 million Laidlaw Youth Trust, created by Tory peer Sir Irvine Laidlaw, applied to Scotland's charities watchdog to dissolve itself earlier this month.
Founded in 2003, the trust, launched by former first minister Jack McConnnell, has given away millions of Laidlaw's money to fund projects" targeted at children and young people under the age of 25 in Scotland who are vulnerable, socially, financially or otherwise disadvantaged".
However, in April last year the peer was exposed after organising aL 27, 000 orgy in Monte Carlo with four female prostitutes and a male gigolo.
One of the women, 22-year-old Vogue model Michelli Vignardi, who chargedL 3000 per night for sex, reportedly said:" Irvine was drinking and taking the sex drug Viagra." She claimed that" he liked to watch the male model... with the girls" and alleged that a lesbian show was also performed for Laidlaw.
Laidlaw admitted he had been" fighting sexual addiction" his whole adult life, and had been in therapy several times." I should have been stronger in resisting temptation," he said before checking into a sex addiction programme in Cape Town. He also pledged to make aL 1m donation to a UK addiction charity.
A trust spokesman repeatedly refused to say if the scandal had prompted the winding-up. However, Laidlaw's lurid private life was already interfering with his philanthropy.
In Newcastle, where he gaveL 2m money to a city academy, councillors claimed his sponsorship was" untenable" and tried to ban him from any involvement in the school. However, the government refused to dismiss him from theL 38m Excelsior Academy project.
Born in Keith, the Tory peer, 66, is worth an estimatedL 730m thanks to the 2005 sale of his international conference business, the Institute of International Research( IIR). Between 2001 and 2005, the business gaveL 2. 27m to the Conservatives and in 2007 Laidlaw himself gave a furtherL 3m.
He was ennobled in 2004 as Baron Laidlaw of Rothiemay on condition he gave up his tax exile in Monaco. However, he still refuses to become a UK resident for tax purposes due to" a variety of personal reasons".
Based in Edinburgh, Laidlaw's organisation began six years ago as the Laidlaw Youth Project and evolved into the Laidlaw Youth Trust in 2007. It was formally recognised as a charity in January last year.
In the year ending March 2008, it disbursedL 3. 6m in grants to more than 70 organisations, includingL 1m to The Prince's Trust,L 59, 000 to Dyslexia Scotland andL 33, 000 to Renfrewshire Young Carers. Laidlaw also set asideL 2m to continue funding 41 organisations in 2008-09, and anotherL 622, 000 to fund 19 into 2009- 10.
In 2007, the Sunday Herald revealed the then Scottish Executive had givenL 500, 000 to the charity. More thanL 73, 500 of the money was used to hire civil servant Maureen McGinn as the charity's chief executive.
In February, the trust told project organisers it would not accept any more applications for funding" in the foreseeable future", although it would honour existing commitments. At the time, it said it would adopt" a more targeted approach".
McGinn told an educational journal it was common for grant- awarding to bodies to evolve and channel their funds in new ways. But earlier this month the charity applied for and was granted permission to wind up. McGinn failed to return the Sunday Herald's calls.
A spokeswoman for the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator said:" I can confirm that the Laidlaw Youth Trust applied for and was granted consent to wind-up by OSCR on July 6, 2009."
A trust spokesman said:" The trust has supported more than 70 Scottish charities and paid more thanL 6. 3m in support of youth work. All commitments have been met and, as no new commitments are being made, OSCR has approved the Trusts move to closure."