MSPs expenses down by £25k on last year

Colin Beattie, MSP. Picture: Gordon Fraser
Colin Beattie, MSP. Picture: Gordon Fraser
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IT HARDLY matches the champagne lifestyle associated with the Westminster expenses row, but the latest data on allowances paid to Holyrood politicians suggests one MSP has a particular penchant for powdered milk.

Along with claims for travel expenses, office rent, printing and photocopying, Colin Beattie, SNP MSP for Midlothian North & Musselburgh, was reimbursed for frequent purchases of Coffee-Mate.

But today Mr Beattie, a former banker, said the non-dairy coffee creamer was for his staff and constituents who came to see him, not his own consumption.

“I don’t drink coffee myself,” he said. “My favourite tipple is Coke Zero – but I don’t put that through the books.”

The breakdown of expenses for the past year shows MSPs claimed a total of £12,498,721 – down £25,238 or 0.2 per cent from the previous year.

Mr Beattie’s claims included two 1kg jars of fat-free Coffee-Mate from Costco on August 28 last year, another jar bought from Tesco for £2.25 in November, then one for £2.29 from Morrisons in January.

Coffee-Mate and sugar from Asda on February 15 came to £4.13; there was another claim for £2.25 for Coffee-Mate from Tesco on March 15; three jars of Coffee-Mate were included as part of a larger purchase at Costco on March 29; then another £2.49 claim for Coffee-Mate from Tesco on April 24, and £2.99 for a jar from Costco in June.

The claims are listed under Office Cost Provision – Business Meeting Expenses.

Mr Beattie said: “The Coffee-Mate was bought variously wherever staff were passing and is mainly for constituents and visitors per parliamentary allowances.”

Mr Beattie, who has registered income of up to £35,000 a year from property on top of his £59,000 MSPs salary, also claimed for a £1 bowl from Bargain Buys.

He said the bowl had been bought and claimed for quite properly by a member of staff.

Meanwhile, the expenses data also revealed only former transport minister Tavish Scott, who signed off the Edinburgh tram scheme, uses it regularly.

The Liberal Democrat Shetland MSP – who piloted the Tram Bill through Holyrood in 2006 – claimed for 11 £5 journeys from Edinburgh Airport to the city centre.

His fellow island Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur used it twice.

The Lib Dems were in coalition with Labour when the original tram scheme was approved. The SNP refused to devote any more public money to the project after it came to power in 2007.

SNP MSP Mike MacKenzie claimed for one tram journey while former SNP education secretary Mike Russell was so impressed with his £1.50 trip from Ingliston to York Place he tweeted about its “modern European ambience”.

Edinburgh Western SNP MSP Colin Keir’s claims included £4194 for a digital printer.

Tory MSP Elizabeth Smith claimed £157.50 for Who’s Who 2015 – “the essential directory of the noteworthy and influential people in all walks of life”.

The party leaders’ allowance doubled from £17,957 to £38,750.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com