The cash behind our MPs: All the foreign trips, freebies and donations given to Scotland's 59 MPs - Part One

Scottish MPs have received free event tickets, trips to far-flung countries, as well as thousands in donations since their elections

The Houses of Parliament where MPs are often paid to travel abroad or receive gifts.

Scotland’s 59 MPs are a mixed bunch from a broad church of political views, but they all provide a route for those with money and power to influence politics at a national level.

In this series, we take a look at each MP elected to the House of Commons in the 2019 general election, who will represent Scotland for the next four-and-a-half years.

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We will examine the foreign trips, freebies, outside work and donations to see who is contributing to the people you elect to represent you.

SNP MP Mhairi Black. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

We will also work through the list of Scottish MPs alphabetically, beginning with Hannah Bardell and ending with Pete Wishart, with 15 MPs each day.

We are also beginning this exercise from 2010, rather than the earliest date for some of those elected, 2001.

For the purposes of this article, we are not including anything that involved a fee being donated directly to charity, which can include fees for newspaper columns and other work.

Many of the foreign trips are part of the workings of All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs), which are groups of MPs who work together around one issue or country.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London

Hannah Bardell – Livingston

Hannah Bardell was elected in the surge of SNP support in the 2015 election to her seat in Livingston with a majority of nearly 25 per cent.

Initially the SNP’s employment spokesperson, she was the shadow secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport between May 2018 and November 2019.

Previously working in the oil and gas industry, Ms Bardell left the oil and gas company Stork after being bullied and had signed a non-disclosure agreement, saying she was put in a “difficult position”.

In her time as an MP she has often gone on foreign trips including:

• Shortly after her election, she was taken on a trip to Pakistan in July 2015 as part of a delegation of MPs to support the work of the British Council in the country. The trip was paid for by the British Council and was worth £4,900.

• In November 2015, she took part in a cross-parliamentary visit to China to attend the 2015 UK-China Leadership Forum, and partially organised by the International Department of the ruling Chinese communist party. It was paid for by the UK China Forum, worth £2,537, and involved discussions on how to develop UK and China relations following President Xi Jinping’s visit to the UK.

• Flown to Palm Springs in California in February 2017 to speak at the Aviation Symposium, paid for by Air Quality Research Centre in a trip worth £911.

Other gifts:

• Visited Islay as part of a “fact-finding” trip paid for by the Scotch Whisky Association organised by the APPG on Scotch Whisky in October 2016. The trip was worth £379.

• Twin Media Group Ltd paid for a £150 ticket and £240 towards accommodation for a trip to the DIVA Literature Festival in November 2017.

• Channel 4 paid £2,124 for two tickets to the BAFTAs

Donations:

• In May 2017 she received £2,000 from John Ward and £4,600 from Gerald Burns in support.

Mhairi Black – Paisley and Renfrewshire South

One of the most high-profile MPs of the SNP’s 2015 intake at Westminster, Ms Black has served as the shadow secretary of state for Scotland since January 2020.

She was the youngest ever MP to be elected to the House of Commons at the age of 20 years and 237 days old since 1832, elected with a majority of nearly 25 per cent of the vote.

Foreign trips include:

• Visit to Kenya courtesy of ONE, an anti-poverty campaign group in September 2015 to see sites funded by UK international development funds. The trip was worth £2,851.

Gifts included:

• Free tickets for Glastonbury 2016 where she was a speaker and took part in a debate. Worth £446.

Donations included:

• £5,000 from Flagship Media Group Ltd, owned by Derek Carstairs who ran a newspaper group in Belfast.

Ian Blackford – Ross, Skye and Lochaber

Another SNP MP voted in on the back of the 2015 nationalist surge, Mr Blackford succeeded popular Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy, winning the seat by nearly 10,000 votes.

Following Angus Robertson losing his seat in 2017, Mr Blackford has been leader of the SNP in the House of Commons.

Outside work:

• He is also the chairman of Golden Charter Trust Ltd, which operates funeral payment plans for individuals and safeguards the money from those payment plans.

The work for the trust, where he was initially trustee and now chairman, sees him paid thousands of pounds a month.

In 2015, he was paid £4,146 quarterly for eight hours’ work as an independent trustee, plus £1,429 per day for any additional work.

Later in 2015 he became chairman, with his pay rising to £3,000 per month for eight hours of work per quarter, plus £1,500 per extra day.

He was paid an additional £1,630 for a phone call and meeting lasting six hours in November of that year, paid £4,290 for three days’ work across three months.

His salary has since been raised to £3,247 per month in April 2020, with his day rate upped to £1,575.

Overall, since he has been in parliament, Mr Blackford has earned more than £170,000 in the role.

• Earned £60,000 as chairman of Commsworld Plc, a telecoms company for 32 hours of work per year at £1,000 per month. In 2019, the Scottish Conservatives suggested Mr Blackford was due to receive a large windfall from the sale of the company.

• Owns First Seer Ltd, a croft business.

• He has an investment portfolio managed by Brooks MacDonald Plc.

• Shareholder in Commsworld and Corbion NV. the latter until November 2015.

• Owned croft plus two holiday rental properties (used as rental properties until September 2015), which were sold in November 2016 on Skye.

• Owned a house in Lanark (sold in 2019).

• Bought a house in Skye in November 2016.

• Non-executive director of New City Agenda thinktank from March 2017 (unpaid).

Gifts:

• Tickets for hospitality at Scotland v England at Murrayfield in February 2018, paid for by Energy Law Unlimited, a specialist business consultancy and law firm specialising in utility infrastructure and energy matters. The tickets were worth £1,360.

Donations:

• £3,000 donation from David Craigen in both June 2015 and June 2017 following general elections.

Kirsty Blackman – Aberdeen North

The deputy leader of the SNP in the House of Commons until her resignation due to mental health concerns in July 2020, Ms Blackman was elected in 2017 with a majority of 33.9 per cent.

She has been the SNP spokesperson for the constitution since January 2019 and was previously SNP spokesperson for the Treasury.

According to the register of interests, apart from outstanding payments due to her role as a councillor and as a parliamentary assistant, she has not earned any money, travelled anywhere, or been given any gifts in the entire three years of her tenure as an MP.

She is, however, an unpaid non-executive director of New City Agenda thinktank.

Steven Bonnar – Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill

Elected during the 2019 general election, gaining the seat from Scottish Labour politician Hugh Gaffney with a swing of 7.6 per cent, Mr Bonnar has only registered his £17,000-a-year salary as a councillor.

He stepped down from the role in May 2020, allowing a by-election to take place.

Andrew Bowie – West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine

Narrowly elected in 2017, winning the vote by just 843 votes, Mr Bowie served as parliamentary private secretary to Theresa May between December 2018 and July 2019, before becoming the vice-chairman of the Tory party in July 2019.

Foreign trips:

• Paid to go to Paris by the International Republican Institute in January 2018, to discuss from a British point of view the response to populism and the changing political landscape in the West. The trip was worth £450.

• In February 2018, he visited Israel and the West Bank, paid for by the Conservative Friends of Israel and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs as part of a fact-finding political delegation. £2,650 of the trip was paid for by the Conservative Friends of Israel, while the Israeli government paid £650 towards the trip.

• The International Republican Institute paid for a trip to Washington DC to attend LEAD21, a seminar for MPs, in a trip worth £2,000 in September 2018.

Gifts:

• ITV paid for two National Television Awards tickets, worth £1,303 in January 2019

• The Premier League paid for two Brit Awards tickets, worth £1,128 in February 2019.

Donations:

• £7,500 from Emma Gigi Salomon in June 2017, and £7,500 again in December 2019.

• £5,000 from Stalbury Trustees in July 2017. The trustees include the Marquess of Salisbury, a former leader of the Conservatives in the House of Lords.

• Ahead of the 2019 election, he received donations of £4,500 from Angelica Salvensen, and £2,000 from Lord Philip Harris, a London-based businessman and Tory party donor.

Deidre Brock – Edinburgh North and Leith

Elected in 2015, she sits on the Scottish Affairs Committee and is the shadow SNP spokesperson for the environment, food and rural affairs.

She owns a half-share of two flats in Edinburgh with her partner and received final payments for her jobs as councillor and deputy Lord Provost at Edinburgh City Council shortly after being elected.

Her foreign trips include:

• Trip to the Isle of Man in July 2016 to be a guest at the Tynwald Day celebrations, paid for by the Isle of Man parliament. Worth £420.

• Trip to Switzerland in April 2017, paid for by the Swiss Foreign Ministry, as part of a study trip on Swiss-EU relations worth £1,900.

Donations:

• She received £2,500 from Angus Crichton-Miller in April 2017.

Alan Brown – Kilmarnock and Loudoun

Elected in 2015, he was been the SNP spokesperson on transport between 2017 and 2020, but now is the party’s spokesperson on energy and climate change.

He is an unpaid director of Newmilns Snow and Sport Complex and was a councillor before his election.

Trips include:

• Visited Islay as part of a “fact-finding” trip paid for by the Scotch Whisky Association organised by the APPG on Scotch Whisky in October 2016. The trip was worth £379.

• Trip to West Bank and Israel, paid for by charity Medical Aid for Palestinians as part of a fact-finding visit organised by the Council for Arab-British Understanding in September 2016. The trip was worth £1,230.

• Visited Qatar in February 2017 as part of an APPG visit to World Cup sites. The trip was worth £5,100 and paid for by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar.

Tickets:

• Hospitality tickets for a Rod Stewart concert at Rugby Park, paid for by Kilmarnock FC in June 2016. Worth £350.

Amy Callaghan – East Dunbartonshire

Elected in 2019, she has been the SNP spokesperson for pensions since her election.

She suffered a brain haemorrhage that required emergency neurosurgery in June 2020 and is slowly recovering.

During her time as an MP, she has declared no trips, income or gifts.

Lisa Cameron – East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow

Elected in 2015, Dr Cameron is the SNP’s spokesperson on mental health.

When elected, she owned five residential and holiday lets in Edinburgh and South Lanarkshire earning more than £10,000 in rent from each. In February 2019, she stopped renting the houses in both South Lanarkshire and Edinburgh.

She also received £150 per month from Psychological Services Scotland Ltd from August 2015, a company she holds shares in, and £353 per month for psychological assessment and treatment work at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde from January 2016.

Foreign trips include:

• In August 2015 a trip to Zambia, paid for by charity Results UK worth £1,850. Part of an APPG on HIV/AIDS trip looking at how Zambia is addressing major health challenges.

• In November 2015, trip to Kenya, paid for by Christian Aid. Done as part of her role as climate justice spokesperson for SNP. Trip was to Pan-African Parliamentarians Summit on Climate Change. Worth: £1,416.91

• In May 2016, she went to Taiwan, paid for by Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Republic of China), as part of UK-Tawainese APPG delegation to attend inauguration of new president. Worth: £2,920.

• In June 2016, trip to Brussels and Mons, paid for by US Mission to NATO, as a member of armed forces APPG to US Mission to Nato and SHAPE HQ in Mons. Worth: £1,260

• In September 2015, she attended a conference and received overnight accommodation worth £780, paid for by UK Japan 21st Century Group

• In September 2016 she visited Berlin, paid for by Rolls-Royce, as part of APPG to meet German politicians to discuss the EU referendum. Worth £1,184.

• November 2016: Visit to Tokyo, paid for by UK Japan 21st Century Group, to meet the Japanese Prime Minister and produce a report by the group to present to Theresa May, Shinzo Abe and the Scottish Government. Worth: £4,288

• January 2017: Trip to Hong Kong, paid for by Hong Kong Gov. To support ‘bilateral relationship and business development’. Worth £10,359.

• September 2018: Trip to Washington and New York, paid for by The Antisemitism Policy Trust, as pat of an APPG Against Antisemitism trip for meetings. Worth: £1,918.

• October 2018: Trip to New York City, to speak and deliver a petition at the UN, paid for by Cruelty Free International. Worth: £2,259.

• August 2019: Trip to Beijing and Jinan, paid for by The Great Britain China Centre with sponsorship from Prudential Plc and China International Capital Corporation and the All-China Youth Federation to participate in the 2019 Young Leaders Roundtable and to build UK-China understanding and partnership on environment and climate change issues. The trip was worth £2,093 in total.

Gifts:

• September 2018: Tickets for Ayr Gold Cup, paid for by William Hill, worth £325.• May 2019: Tickets to Copenhagen sustainable fashion summit, worth £1,000, paid for by The Global Fashion Agenda as part of her role as Chair of APPG on textiles and fashion.

Alastair Carmichael – Orkney and Shetland

The Liberal Democrat politician was elected to the House of Commons to represent Orkney and Shetland for the first time in 2001.

Since then, he has won every election held on the islands comfortably, winning by 51.3 per cent in 2010, holding on to his seat by 3.4 points in 2015, and retaining it in 2019 with a majority of just over 2,500.

Under the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition from 2010, he served as the Secretary of State for Scotland under David Cameron and Nick Clegg between October 2013 and May 2015.

He is now the Lib Dem spokesman for home affairs, Northern Ireland, and the Cabinet Office.

For work outside Parliament, he received;

• £750 for flights and accommodation for appearing on Question Time in October 2010.

Foreign trips have included;

• Flown to Rotterdam and Den Helder by gas and oil logistics company, Petersen SBS Ltd (now Petersen) costing £1,092 in August 2012. The trip was described as being “relevant to business opportunities in my constituency.

• Took part in a VSO political volunteer scheme to Cameroon in August 2013, a trip worth £5,090.

• Flown to Doha, Qatar, by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Qatar in February 2016 as part of a trip with the All-Party Parliamentary British-Qatar Group to discuss the preparations for the World Cup and labour conditions. The trip was worth £6,550 in flights, food, and accommodation.

• Another trip to Qatar as part of the same APPG in February 2017. This trip was worth £5,100 in flights, food, and accommodation.

• Trip to the West Bank and Israel in September 2017, as part of a ‘fact-finding visit’ organised by the Council for Arab-British Understanding and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), costing £1,260, paid for by MAP.

• In November 2018, he visited Kuwait as part of the APPG on Kuwait, paid for by the Kuwait National Assembly and worth £3,800.

• Visited to Japan, paid for by the Open Society Foundation – founded by George Soros – on the invitation of the Japanese Federal Bar Association, to meet with ministers and MPs to discuss the abolition of the death penalty. The trip was worth £1,985.

• In October 2019, he was flown to Dubai in a trip worth £4,400 by private equity firm C&C Alpha Group to participate and address a conference of C&C Alpha Group senior management.

• Visited Qatar again in February 2020 in an APPG visit to the country, paid for by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, to discuss the blockade on the country imposed by other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council such as the UAE and Bahrain. The trip was worth £3,425.

Financial support has included

• Two grants of £34,000 and £16,000 from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (not to be confused with the politically independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation) in January and March 2016 to help pay his £150,000 legal costs following a failed attempt by four constituents to unseat him as an MP following the 2015 election.

This was in relation to a leaked memo which suggested Nicola Sturgeon wanted a Conservative prime minister, later leaked to the press and authorised by Mr Carmichael.

Other donations include:

• £2,000 from Jeremy Nelson in July 2017.

• £5,000 in July 2017 from millionaire online travel website businessman and creator of Ebookers, Dinesh Dhamija, who was also a Lib Dem MEP for London until Brexit.

• £5,000 from Radix think-tank founder and entrepreneur Joe Zammit-Lucia in July 2017, followed by another £5,000 donation in January 2020.

• £2,500 from Robert Laurence in January 2020.

• £10,000 from Sudhir Choudhrie in January 2020, an Indian businessman who has donated more than £1.5m to the Liberal Democrats. Him and his son Bhanu were also part of an investigation into Rolls-Royce by the Serious Fraud Office.

Wendy Chamberlain – North East Fife

Elected as the Liberal Democrat candidate for North East Fife, she won one of the tightest seats in the country by more than 1,200 votes in 2019, beating incumbent SNP MP Stephen Gethins.

She is the party’s chief whip and spokesperson for Scotland, Wales, and work and pensions and sits on the Scottish Affairs committee.

Her donations have included:

• Donations of £10,000 each from Sir Bob Reid and Peak Scientific, a hydrogen and nitrogen generator designer and manufacturer in January 2020.

Gifts:

• Free membership to National Liberal Club worth £998 per year from January 2020.

Douglas Chapman – Dunfermline and West Fife

Elected in 2015, beating Labour party politician Thomas Docherty five years after the SNP had finished third behind Labour and the Liberal Democrats’ Willie Rennie.

While SNP spokesperson for defence procurement between 2017 and 2020, he was given tickets for staff to attend a conference about F-35 fighter jets.

Mr Chapman has received several gifts and only been on one foreign trip during his time as an MP.

His trip was to Barcelona in September 2017, paid for by Diplocat (Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia) to oversee the referendum vote in Catalonia as part of international delegation including APPG on Catalonia members. Worth: £328

Gifts:

• Two tickets and hospitality at Edinburgh Tattoo worth £800, paid for by ExxonMobil in August 2015.

• Tickets for staff to attend F-35 Lightning II conference at the ITEC exhibition at the Excel, paid for by Clarion Events, worth £1,000 in May 2016.

• Tickets for Burns’ Supper, paid for by ExxonMobil, worth £351 in January 2018.

Donations:

• In April 2015, he received two donations of £1,000 from Austin Daniels.

Joanna Cherry – Edinburgh South West

The firebrand MP was initially tipped to take on Ruth Davidson’s seat in Edinburgh Central at the Scottish Parliament before a rule change scuppered the potential for an internal fight between her and former leader of the SNP in the House of Commons Angus Robertson.

Elected in 2015, she was a highly regarded QC and led legal action around the five-week long prorogation of Parliament by Boris Johnson in 2019, a case she won at the Supreme Court, funded by Vince Dale.

In her time as an MP she has earned nearly £170,000 for legal work undertaken before she was elected.

In January 2019, she received £150 from The Herald for an article and £600 from ITV for appearing on University Challenge.

She is now shadow SNP spokesperson for home affairs and justice.

Foreign trips have included:

• In October 2016, a trip to West Bank and Israel as part of visit organised by Council for Arab-British Understanding and Human Appeal, paid for by Human Appeal. Worth: £1,350.

• In January 2017, a trip to France, paid for by Franco-British Colloque, to attend their 2017 Conference, worth £600. She went again in 2018, 2019 and 2020 at a cost of £777, £598 and £901 respectively.

• Another trip was to Barcelona in September 2017, paid for by Diplocat (Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia) to oversee the referendum vote in Catalonia as part of international delegation including APPG on Catalonia members. Worth: £890.

• In January 2019 she went to Cork to speak at an event at the Cork Chamber of Commerce, paid for by KPMG. Worth £415.

Gifts:

• In July 2017, she received paintings worth £23,000 for benefit of her and four other candidates, with local party receiving a 20% share. Paid for by Gerard Burns.

• In November 2017, she received tickets for DIVA Literary Festival, worth £370, paid for my DIVA Magazine/Twin Media Group Ltd.

Donations:

In January 2020, she received a donation of £3,000 from Flagship Media Group, owned by Derek Carstairs.

Ronnie Cowan – Inverclyde

Elected to the House of Commons in 2015, Mr Cowan has served as a backbencher since and as SNP spokesperson for infrastructure.

He owns an IT service company, but otherwise has not received any additional income whilst an MP.

Gifts:

He has twice received tickets for a rugby match at Murrayfield, both times paid for by BT in November 2017 and February 2018, worth £750 and £600 respectively.

Donations:

In July 2017, he received a donation of £5,000 from Michael Thurlow.

This data has been compiled based on information publicly accessible on the House of Commons’ Register of Members’ Financial Interests available here.

Because of this, we have not approached any individual MP for comment on this story.

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