Lothians MSPs claim £83,000 in expenses

Christine Grahame. Picture: Dan Philips
Christine Grahame. Picture: Dan Philips
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FROM office blinds to a coatstand, doormats to microwaves, the latest list of MSPs’ expenses shows politicians were still kitting out their constituency offices a year after the last Holyrood elections.

Claims from MSPs in Edinburgh and the Lothians totalled £82,917 for the first two quarters of the financial year – April-September 2012.

Kenny MacAskill

Kenny MacAskill

But alongside the costs of producing newsletters, advertising surgery sessions and travelling on constituency business, the politicians also submitted bills for office decoration, window graphics and a whole range of equipment.

Although the elections were in May 2011, many MSPs found it difficult to secure suitable office space for some time.

Edinburgh Southern SNP MSP Jim Eadie, whose £10,131.34 claim was one of the highest among Lothians MSPs, said a lot of the expense went on setting up his constituency office at 13-15 Morningside Drive.

His claims included £1761 for internal decoration, £704.75 for external decoration, £550 for new doors and £456 for graphics.

Mr Eadie said: “We had to establish a new constituency office to serve the constituents of Edinburgh Southern, to hold regular advice surgeries and be accessible to the needs and concerns of the community.

“We carried out an extensive property search across the area and eventually found an office that suited the requirements of a constituency MSP.”

Edinburgh Western SNP MSP Colin Keir, whose total expenses of £2851.20 were among the lowest, claimed £358 for office blinds, £55.43 for a coat stand, £19.04 for a floor mat and waste bin and £281.48 for a microwave, vacuum, fridge and kettle.

Last year, Holyrood officials baulked at the £5626 bill which Colin Beattie, SNP MSP for Midlothian North & Musselburgh, submitted for painting and joinery work at his constituency office.

He was told the landlord should have carried out the work, but Mr Beattie won an appeal after arguing that would have resulted in a higher rent without any guarantee that the work was up to a satisfactory standard.

This time, Mr Beattie submitted a further claim for £1584 for a kitchen wall unit, worktop insulation and new door, and £196 for external decoration.

Almond Valley SNP MSP Angela Constance submitted a bill for £672 for signage and vinyl graphics and £49.99 for a vacuum cleaner. Edinburgh Central SNP MSP Marco Biagi claimed £75 for blinds.

The lowest expenses claim among Lothian MSPs over the six-month period was the £1009.25 total submitted by Independent Margo MacDonald.

The biggest claim was the £11,410.58 from Christine Grahame, SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale.