Storm over website after MSP expenses hit £12.5m

The Scottish Parliament building. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The Scottish Parliament building. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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MSPs’ expenses rose to more than £12.5 million last year, up by around a quarter of a million pounds on 2012-13, according to figures.

The total claimed in 2013-14 was £12,523,959, an increase of £262,140 on the figure for the previous year.

The figures were published at Holyrood yesterday, but there was controversy that the Scottish Parliament website was unable to give a full breakdown of the expenses claimed by each politician.

Holyrood authorities last night apologised that individual claims were unable to be ­accessed.

“We are experiencing a high number of people trying to ­access the database at the same time,” a Scottish Parliament spokesman said.

“We have tried to boost its ­capacity but it is still running slow due to the high demand. We apologise for this and will look to make longer-term ­improvements to the system.”

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The figures that were available yesterday showed there had been a 2.14 per cent rise in MSPs’ expenses last year.

The Holyrood spokesman said the increase “broadly” reflected the effect of inflation on office costs and on staff salaries.

Costs for staff salaries, pensions and national insurance contributions rose from £8,915,847 in 2012-13 to £9,080,336 in 2013-14.

This included winding up costs for members’ staff of £200,697, up from £25,940 in 2012-13. Stationery and postage costs increased by 10.2 per cent over the year, from £486,450 in 2012-13 to £536,101 in 2013-14.

Party leaders’ allowances fell by almost a third (31.4 per cent) over the period, from £26,184 in 2012-13 to £17,957.

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The rise in the cost of winding up provision for 2013-14 was largely due to the deaths of MSPs Brian Adam, Helen Eadie and David McLetchie, and the resignation of Bill Walker following his conviction on charges of ­domestic abuse.

Expenditure on childcare vouchers over the period was £22,439 and security related and disability provision expenditure was £21,703.

First Minister Alex Salmond claimed a total of £9,691, including expenses for travel, printing, stationery, mobile phone and newspaper subscriptions.

Labour leader Johann Lamont spent £19,697 on bills for taxi and rail travel, hotels in Edinburgh and office costs.

Conservative leader Ruth Davidson claimed back £17,184 of travel, office and accommodation costs, while Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie’s expenses were £16,394, the ­majority of which were for travel costs.

Walker claimed £11,312.50, excluding office winding-up costs, in six months before he resigned from the Scottish Parliament following his conviction last September.

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The former Dunfermline SNP MSP, who lives 35 miles from the Scottish Parliament in Alloa, claimed nearly £1,500 for Edinburgh hotel rooms, meals and refreshments. He also spent £50 on a copy of Who’s Who in Scotland in August, the same month he was found guilty of 23 assaults and one breach of the peace against three former wives and his stepdaughter.

Justice secretary Kenny ­MacAskill spent the most on legal fees, claiming £2,494.

SNP MSP James Dornan spent £74.39 on two hotel meals in contrast to SNP colleague Richard Lyle who settled for a £1.80 chippy from Bene’s fish and chip shop a short walk from the Scottish Parliament, while Labour deputy presiding officer Elaine Smith managed a £1.50 hotel evening meal.

Conservative deputy presiding officer John Scott spent nearly £300 on tea, coffee and biscuits.

Eben Wilson, of TaxpayerScotland, questioned whether enough effort was being made to ensure that MSPs’ expenses were open to scrutiny.

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