Disgraced peer granted hearing to challenge fireraising term

THE disgraced peer Mike Watson has been granted an appeal hearing to challenge the length of his jail sentence for starting a fire at an upmarket hotel.

The 56-year-old admitted setting a curtain ablaze after a heavy drinking session at the Scottish Politician of the Year awards ceremony at Edinburgh's Prestonfield House Hotel in November 2004.

In September, Sheriff Kathrine Mackie sentenced the former Labour Glasgow Cathcart MSP to 18 months in prison, saying he posed a significant risk of re-offending.

The Scottish Courts Service confirmed that Lord Watson had been granted permission to appeal the length of his prison sentence.

A date for the hearing has yet to be set.

Lord Watson had initially denied responsibility for starting the fire, which caused 4,500 worth of damage.

But CCTV footage apparently showed him crouching down at the base of a curtain just minutes before it was engulfed in flames and he eventually pleaded guilty to a charge of wilful fireraising.

Last month, Lord Watson told reporters that he was "doing well" in prison, and said he was "taking [his] punishment and getting on with it".

He also revealed he is paid about 8 a week for serving meals to fellow inmates.

Lord Watson is reportedly planning to move to London with his third wife, Clare, on his eventual release.

Although he is no longer an MSP and was expelled from the Labour Party, the former Scottish tourism, culture and sport minister is still entitled to sit in the House of Lords.

This entitles him to subsistence expenses of 64 a day, and he can also claim for accommodation costs of 128 a night.

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