MSPs claim expenses for one-mile journeys
MSPs have been claiming expenses for “commutes” of just one mile.
Members at Westminster cannot claim for journeys to work, but Holyrood representatives are allowed to under the existing system.
And they have racked up thousands of pounds worth of expenses claims getting from their homes to their local constituency offices, it has emerged.
Two MSPs – SNP veteran Kenny MacAskill and Labour backbencher Hanzala Malik – claimed 45p each way for journeys of just one mile.
And North East Scotland Liberal Democrat MSP Alison McInnes asked for cash for her two-mile trips.
Among the bigger claimants were Angus South’s Graeme Dey, who claimed £252, and Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, who clawed back £2,079 for 30-mile journeys between his home and Falkirk office.
Finance Secretary and Perth and North Perthshire MSP John Swinney made a series of claims, while SNP colleague and North East Fife representative Rod Campbell was reimbursed for a number of his 43-mile journeys.
Mid Scotland and Fife Labour MSPs Claire Baker, Jayne Baxter and Richard Simpson all got cash for relatively short hops, as did Conservative regional representatives Murdo Fraser and Liz Smith.
Taxpayer Scotland director, Eben Wilson, said: “We want our representatives to be working for our interests in parliament, not larging it grandly and lining their pockets. Those claiming should return the money.”
Ms Baker said: “My understanding is it is within parliamentary rules. Often when I am travelling to the local office it is not just the local office I am going to, I am going on to other constituency matters and it is a round-trip claim.”
Dr Simpson added: “There are more serious stories than the scale of MSPs’ expenses. Any claim from home to office is treated as a taxable expense.”
Ms Smith said: “The rules at parliament are very clear. You claim for anything that is constituency business, it would be another thing if it were a party matter.
“I see constituents in my constituency office and I’m perfectly happy with that.”
An SNP spokesman said: “MSPs work within strict rules set out by parliament and are able to claim reimbursement of travel costs undertaken in support of their parliamentary duties on behalf of constituents.”
Attempts were made to contact Mr Dey, Mr Swinney, Mr Campbell, Ms Baxter, Mr Fraser and Ms McInnes directly but they were either unavailable or did not respond. In total, 25 SNP, ten Labour, eight Conservative, two Liberal Democrat and one independent MSP claimed expenses for commuting costs. The total cost is thought to be in excess of £15,000.
A spokesman for the Scottish Parliament said: “An independent review of MSPs expenses scheme recognised this is a legitimate cost to reimburse, and that members are taxed accordingly in line with HMRC’s rules.”
Guidance from Westminster’s Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority states: “We do not pay for commuting costs. This mirrors the circumstances of most citizens.”