Page last updated at 16:10 GMT, Thursday, 19 November 2009

MSPs expenses claims rise by 8%

Scottish Parliament building
The rise was partly down to a salary increase

The expenses bill for MSPs increased last year by more than 8% to £10.9m, the Scottish Parliament has said.

Holyrood bosses put the £876,587 rise in 2008-09 partly down to an increase in members' staff salaries.

The figures also showed large differences among MSPs in claims for office supplies, which went up by 31%.

Tory MSP John Lamont claimed the most for supplies which includes stationery, at almost £27,000, while his party colleague, Liz Smith, put in for £146.

The figures showed the total allowances expenditure bill for all 129 MSPs was £10,956,204 in 2008-09, compared with £10,079,617 for 2007-08.

Holyrood bosses pointed out the annual spending limit for stationery and postage was capped at £5,500 per MSP from April 2009.

The pay rise for staff employed by MSPs was a key recommendation of the independent review of Holyrood allowances, carried out by Sir Alan Langlands.

'Postal charges'

Total spending on office supplies increased from £363,743 to £476,931, with an increase in postal charges said to be the main factor in the rise.

Mr Lamont, MSP for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, spent a total of £26,952 on office supplies, although his party pointed out he represented a large, rural constituency.

Mr Lamont is standing as the Conservative candidate in the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk seat in the next UK election.

Ms Smith, an MSP for the Mid Scotland and Fife region, claimed the least amount for office supplies out of all the Holyrood members.

Jim Hume, the South of Scotland Liberal Democrat MSP, claimed £20,340 for office supplies, while Paisley North MSP and former Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander's bill came to £18,879.

Constituency MSPs in rural areas will always have higher postage bills and the recently published figures have confirmed this
John Lamont MSP

The SNP's Kenny Gibson, MSP for Cunninghame North, claimed £16,891 for office supplies.

Most of the allowances bill went on staff and salaries - £7.32m was spent on staff, compared with £6.744m in the previous year.

A spokeswoman for the Lib Dems defended Mr Hume's claims.

She said: "Jim Hume covers the South of Scotland region, which includes not only John Lamont's area but eight other constituencies.

"People will see right through this inaccurate Tory spin."

Meanwhile, Mr Lamont said the figures related to the running of his constituency office in Hawick, which was "incredibly busy" with constituents seeking help on a range of matters.

"Whilst we use e-mail as much as we can, many of my constituents do not have access to e-mails so we need to post letters," he said.

"In addition, there have been a number of other specific issues affecting my constituency which have generated a higher than normal level of correspondence."

These included post office closures, dental services, gas network failures, the Borders railway and digital TV.

"Constituency MSPs in rural areas will always have higher postage bills and the recently published figures have confirmed this," he said.

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