Scottish election 2021: Douglas Ross insists he has not broken rules over £7k flat payment

Douglas Ross has insisted that he has not broken any rules after it emerged that he paid £7,000 of taxpayers’ money to a close friend for accommodation in Edinburgh while he was an MSP.

The Scottish Conservatives leader has been accused of being “engulfed in Tory cronyism” by the SNP after he admitted in an interview that he used Holyrood expenses – footed by the taxpayer – to cover £7,000 worth of rent on an Edinburgh flat that was half-owned by a refereeing colleague.

Meanwhile, Mr Ross admitted that he “hasn’t looked into” the details of the accusations surrounding the funding of the refurbishment of the Prime Minister’s Downing Street flat – a day after it emerged the Electoral Commission is to conduct an inquiry into the claims.

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He said he had not spoken to Boris Johnson about the situation, in which the Prime Minister reportedly failed to declare payments for the refurbishment.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross during a visit to Henderson Park in Coldstream, at the border between Scotland and England.

Mr Ross said: “Well, I'll be honest I haven't looked into that. I've seen the questions that the Prime Minister was asked about this.

"I do know there is at least one inquiry, I think, by the Electoral Commission, and I'm sure if there are issues there they will get to the bottom of this.”

Mr Ross rented the £265,000 flat – at Allanfield near Holyrood – from his friend Hugh Dallas and another individual in 2017.

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He said: “Not a single rule has been broken. It was all in accordance with the Scottish Parliament rules for MSPs.

"I was elected to represent the Highlands and Islands region. My home to Parliament is 170 miles each way, it's well over three hours travelling in both directions and Parliament therefore says to MSPs who represent areas outwith the Central Belt of Scotland and further away from Holyrood that they can rent, accommodation, and that is what I did.

"I'm focused on being re-elected to the Highlands and Islands region and securing a very good result for the Scottish Conservatives both in constituencies and by people supporting the party on their peach ballot paper for the party list vote and I’ve not made any thoughts of what I'm going to do in terms of accommodation, should I be re-elected as an MSP for the Highlands and Islands.”

SNP candidate for Paisley, George Adam, said: “Douglas Ross now finds himself engulfed in the Tory sleaze scandal that he hoped to dodge, using taxpayers' money to pay rent to a close friend whose property appears to have been rented out just as Douglas Ross got elected.

He added: “The sleaze pouring out of the Tories right now shows that the Nasty Party is back – and they cannot be trusted to hold public office.

“Whether it’s Covid contracts for cronies, donations for decorating, texts for tax breaks, or renting from referees – a culture of sleaze has consumed the Tories.”

Mr Johnson has said he will comply with the inquiry into his property refurbishment, but added: "I don't think there is anything to see here or worry about.”

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