MSP Expenses

The Scottish Parliament and its MSPs are in a tricky position following the ongoing expenses scandal in Westminster. On the one hand, it is insulated to some extent from major criticism because it has already reformed its rules following concerns about the transparency of MSP expenses (in 2005, by publishing MSP expenses in detail and exploring how to allow the public to view MSP expenses online) and the ability of MSPs to profit from the sales of their second homes (in 2008, by voting to effectively make MSPs rent instead of buy).[1] Therefore, much has been made about the ability of Westminster to learn from Holyrood.[2] This may include reference to the statement expressed in the Langlands Review that allowances are there to reimburse expenses (accompanied by receipts) rather than augment salaries (in the light of Harry Cohen MP’s claims that the Thatcher government recommended using allowances rather than raising MP salaries) (see also 3.5).[3] The new rules on transparency also appeared to produce a fall in overall expense claims.[4] On the other hand, there is still the potential for guilt by association, and there is still a significant spotlight on the expense claims of MSPs.[5] It would not be a huge surprise to see the Scottish Parliament plans to phase out (owned) second homes accelerated (they were originally to be phased out by 2011).[6] The issue has certainly eclipsed earlier calls for Salmond to quit as an MP and stories which bemoan his lack of time spent in Westminster.[7] It also puts previous Scottish Parliament scandals in perspective – the SNP’s Minister for Parliamentary Business Bruce Crawford suggested recently[8] that former First Minster Henry McLeish was harshly treated before his resignation (but would not make the same statement about Wendy Alexander).

[1] See Scottish Parliament ‘Members Expenses Scheme’; M. Earle (2009) Parliamentary Pay and Expenses 20007-08 and Pay and Expense Rates 2008-09, SPICE briefing 09/6; Scotland Devolution Monitoring Report January 2006, 2.3, p20 and September 2008, 2.3, pp.16-17 ; BBC News 13.12.05 ‘MSP expenses published in detail’,;;
[2] BBC 28.4.09 ‘MPs ‘should back’ MSP claim rules’;
I. Swanson 30.4.09 ‘Ian Swanson: Use Holyrood as expenses model’ The Scotsman; I. Swanson 28.10.08 ‘MSPs Look on With Envy at MPs Expenses’, Edinburgh Evening News, p.11; although see also J. Hjul 5.4.09 ‘Holyrood’s snouts are no shorter than Westminster’s’, The Sunday Times
[3] Scottish Parliament (2008) Independent Review of Parliamentary Allowances (the Langlands Review); G. Cordon 29.3.09 ‘MP says £300,000 claim for home is ‘part of salary’’, Scotland on Sunday
[4] T. Gordon 6.10.06 ‘MSPs’ expenses fall from GBP1.8m to GBP227,000 in wake of scandals’ The Herald
[6] P. Hutcheon and T. Gordon 18.5.09 ‘Hand back any profits on second homes, urges MSP’, The Herald; I. MacWhirter 17.5.09 ‘It’s payback time’ The Herald
[7] H. MacDonell 17.2.09 ‘Tories tell Salmond to quit as MP over ‘poor’ Westminster record’, The Scotsman ; S. Paterson 17.2.09 ‘Salmond should quit as an MP, says Scots Tory leader’ The Herald; The Scotsman 28.4.09 ‘Salmond hits out at ‘Thatcher-style cuts’ ‘ ; T. Crichton 28.4.09 ‘Salmond takes ‘cuts’ fight to the heart of Westminster’ The Herald
[8] BBC Radio Scotland 15.5.09 ‘Riddoch Questions’, recorded at ‘Ten Years of the Scottish Parliament’ conference, 12 May, Edinburgh – an event to mark the publication of C. Jeffery and J. Mitchell (eds.) The Scottish Parliament, 1999-2009: The First Decade (Edinburgh: Luath Press). Note also the claim by Iain Gray that the Scottish Government is undermining Labour’s shadow legislative programme.

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One response to “MSP Expenses

  1. Pingback: Scottish Independence: a rejection of Westminster politics? | Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy

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