MSPs claim over £16m in expenses

MSPs' expenses topped £16m. Picture: Jayne Wright.

Expenses claimed by MSPs broke through the £16 million barrier for the first time last year, with Holyrood politicians racking up their biggest ever bill.

The total claimed in 2017-18 came to £16.16m – an increase of £327,611 compared with the previous year’s total of £15.8m.

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Holyrood authorities pointed out the 2.07 per cent rise observed between 2017-18 and the year before was below the inflation rate of 2.5 per cent for the period.

As with previous years, MSPs representing far-flung constituencies claimed the most in expenses to cover their travel and accommodation costs.

But the annual break down of parliamentarians’ expenses also revealed some MSPs were repeatedly claiming for taxi rides of between £1 and £4. Many of the claims were for cabs making the half-a-mile journey from Holyrood to Waverley Station. Of a total taxi bill for the year of £14,720, there were an estimated 400 claims for £4 or less.

Among those who repeatedly claimed for the journey between Holyrood and the railway station were Labour’s Pauline McNeill and Claudia Beamish, and SNP trio Fulton MacGregor, James Dornan and Sandra White.

Last night Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Being an MSP perhaps does not allow for the healthiest lifestyle given the long hours at the office. The walk to Waverley from Holyrood has the potential to be the best bit of exercise they might get in a day. Everyone understands that sometimes the weather can be foul and people might be in a hurry, but it is a shame that so many taxis are being taken.”

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The MSP who claimed the most was Tavish Scott, the Lib Dem MSP for Shetland, who incurs large travelling expenses as a result of the remote nature of his constituency. Mr Scott’s total, which excluded postage, stationary and staff wages, came to £62,221.

In second place was the SNP’s Richard Lochhead, MSP for Moray, who claimed £44,807.

He was followed by Orkney MSP Liam McArthur from the Lib Dems with £44,042.

In fourth place was the SNP’s Kate Forbes of Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch with £43,208.

Next was the Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant of Labour with £40,763, while Mr Dornan, MSP for Glasgow Cathcart came in fifth in terms of claimed expenses with £40,736.

Of the five party leaders, Lib Dem Willie Rennie claimed the most in expenses, with the North East Fife MSP billing the Parliament for £22,710.95 in 2017-18.

Next was Patrick Harvie of the Scottish Greens, with the Glasgow MSP claiming £20,089.14 followed by SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, who claimed £13,005.47 in expenses for her role as MSP for Glasgow Southside.

Scottish Conservative leader and Edinburgh Central MSP Ruth Davidson claimed a total of £10,738.65 over the year.

Richard Leonard, who was elected Labour leader in November last year, claimed £9,003.88 as a Central Scotland MSP.

Ken Macintosh, who is the Scottish Parliament’s presiding officer, claimed £18,155.29 in 2017-18 for his work as an MSP for the West of Scotland region.

A Scottish Parliament spokesman said: “The cost of expenses incurred in carrying out parliamentary duties rose by less than the rate of inflation last year.”