THE Holyrood authorities have recommended that MSPs staff expenses should increase to £85,000 per year to allow politicians to employ up to three full time assistants.
A letter sent by the Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick revealed the Scottish Parliament’s staff allowance is to increase by £22,700 from the current level of £62,300, a charge that will cost an additional £3 million in the 2016/17 budget.
The change suggested by the Scottish Parliament’s Corporate Body (SPCB), the group of MSPs responsible for running Holyrood, has been taken to ensure MSPs have the resources to cope with the “substantial new powers” coming to the Scottish Parliament.
Ms Marwick’s letter also said the SPCB had recommended to end the practice whereby MSPs lease offices from political parties, and use their taxpayer funded parliamentary expenses to pay the rent.
On the issue of staff costs, Ms Marwick said: “The parliament will assume substantial new powers during the course of the next session, including significant powers over taxation and welfare. It is important the parliament and its members are properly resourced and supported to scrutinise these powers effectively and hold the Government of the day to account...It is clear to us that the current provision which provides for around two full time equivalent staff is already under significant pressure and is not fit for purpose particularly in light of the increase in powers and the consequential increase workloads for constituency and regional offices.”
The arrangement whereby parliamentary expenses are used to pay rent to offices owned by political parties has proved controversial in the past.
In 2013 the Taxpayers’ Alliance said the practice amounted to a “back-door subsidy” to political parties.
Politicians across the main parties are understood to have such an arrangement. In total 19 MSPs pay rent to 18 separate party offices.
Ms Marwick said: “The parliament already has robust arrangements in place to ensure rentals paid to political parties are independently evaluated to protect the public purse. However this further change will create a very clear divide between parliamentary and political activities and counter any potential perception that public funds are being used to support party political organisations.”