Frugal MSPs trim expenses

Kenny MacAskill made the largest claim

Kenny MacAskill made the largest claim

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THEY are often accused of taking the biscuit with their expense claims.

But Lothians Tory MSP Gavin Brown is leading by example by giving up charging the taxpayer for the sweet treats.

He is among local MSPs who have trimmed their expense claims despite an overall increase in the total cost for Holyrood politicians.

The Evening News revealed last year that Mr Brown had claimed for 67 muffins when he ordered tea and coffee for meetings at the parliament. Two claims submitted by Mr Brown in July were for “tea, coffee, muffins” but after the story in September, similar claims in October and December were for “tea, coffee, biscuits”.

Figures just published for 2010-11 show the 17 MSPs covering this area claimed a total of £211,882, compared with £221,222 in 2009-10 and £306,538 in 2008-9.

The claims cover a wide range of expenses from travel to office costs, including phone bills, stationery and advertising. Once other costs, including staff wages are added, the total amount reimbursed to or paid on behalf of all 129 MSPs, was £11.8 million, up 1.6 per cent on the previous year. A parliament spokesman said in view of inflation, the costs represented a real-terms reduction.

The figures cover the 12 months before this year’s Scottish Parliament election, so none of the new MSPs elected in May feature. The figures also pre-date the two-year pay and expenses freeze for MSPs which came into effect on April 1.

The Lothians MSP with the biggest claim was Justice Secretary and Edinburgh Eastern MSP Kenny MacAskill whose £19,833.47 total was narrowly ahead of Almond Valley MSP and new Minister for Youth Employment, Angela Constance, who claimed £19,375.56, and Scottish Labour leader and East Lothian MSP Iain Gray, who claimed £18,985.77.

Mr MacAskill could not think of any reason why his expenses were higher than other Lothians MSPs. He said: “The costs primarily go on the office to provide the service that constituents need and expect.”

At the other end of the table, Independent Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald claimed just £2908.46. She said: “Probably the fact I and my office colleagues have worked together for 12 years now means there is little wastage and possibly greater efficiency.”