Falkirk MSP spends £13k on Edinburgh hotel stays

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A Falkirk MSP has topped the list of Scottish Parliament members claiming expenses for overnight stays in Edinburgh.

Angus MacDonald, MSP for Falkirk East, claimed £13,690 on hotels, evening meals and refreshments in the capital in 2018-19, despite living less than 30 miles from Holyrood.

The latest spending figures for members of the Scottish Parliament were released last week.

This spend, is in comparison to Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson, who spent just £312 on a three night stay in the capital during the same period. However in his role as transport minister, Mr Matheson is entitled to a ministerial car to take him home.

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Under parliamentary rules, MSPs with constituencies surrounding Edinburgh – including Falkirk – are entitled to claim £168 per night for staying in the capital as long as it was in connection with the performance of parliamentary duties.

Mr MacDonald was one of 11 MSPs claiming more than £10,000 on hotels in the capital last year, while 12 MSPs didn’t spend anything at all on hotels.

Between them, Mr MacDonald and Mr Matheson claimed back over £54,000.

Mr MacDonald’s total expenses bill was £37,853, while Mr Matheson’s was less than half that figure at £16,419.

The elected members for Falkirk made hundreds of claims for expenses.

Despite the high figure, Mr MacDonald’s largest spend was not the Edinburgh accommodation but office expenditure.

It covers everything from rent and utilities to newspaper subscriptions, postage fees and business meeting expenses.

Mr Matheson also paid out his highest sum – £12,106 – for office costs. He was reimbursed £2074 for travel.

Alongside their salary, MSPs are entitled to claim back costs incurred in the carrying out of their parliamentary and constituency duties.

The detailed list of MSPs’ expenses is available to view on the parliamentary website.

Mr MacDonald stressed this week that his expense claims fully comply with the Scottish Parliament’s allowance system and the bulk of his expenses are for office expenditure such as rent, electricty,and telephones.

He said:“With regard to my hotel expenses it must be stressed that MSPs do not have a ‘9 to 5’ job. On days when Parliament is sitting a 12 to 13 hour working day is the norm.

“Members are entitled to claim for overnight accommodation when carrying out their parliamentary duties and my claims are all in line with the Scottish Parliament allowance system.

“These expenses allow me to carry out my duties representing and supporting my constituents in Falkirk East. Had I to travel on busy days back and fore to my constituency it would involve a 16 hour day.”

He added that the two committees he sits on have early morning starts so staying over allows him to use the travel time to get on with work for constituents, and he is also required to attend cross party group meetings and events in the evenings.

He added: “As a busy and committed MSP this is the best way to ensure I get my work done to the best of my abilities.”