MSPs have racked up thousands of pounds’ worth of expenses claims getting from their homes to their local constituency offices, it has emerged.
Although MPs at Westminster are not allowed to submit for such “commuting costs”, Holyrood representatives are able to under the existing system.
Angus South’s Graeme Dey claimed £252 for his commute to top the local list although he was a way off justice secretary Michael Matheson, who clawed back £2,079 for 30-mile journeys between his home and Falkirk office.
Finance secretary and Perth and North Perthshire MSP John Swinney made a series of claims, while SNP colleague and North East Fife representative Rod Campbell was reimbursed for a number of his 43-mile journeys.
Mid Scotland and Fife Labour MSPs Claire Baker, Jayne Baxter and Richard Simpson all got cash for relatively short hops, as did Conservative regional representatives Murdo Fraser and Liz Smith, while North East Scotland Liberal Democrat MSP Alison McInnes asked for cash for her two-mile trips.
Guidance from Westminster’s Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority states: “We do not pay for commuting costs. This mirrors the circumstances of most citizens.”
Taxpayer Scotland director Eben Wilson said: “We want our representatives to be working for our interests in parliament, not larging it grandly and lining their pockets. Those claiming should return the money.”
Ms Baker said: “My understanding is it is within parliamentary rules. Often when I am travelling to the local office it is not just the local office I am going to, I am going on to other constituency matters and it is a round-trip claim.”
Dr Simpson said: “There are more serious stories than the scale of MSPs’ expenses. Any claim from home to office is treated as a taxable expense.”
Ms Smith said: “The rules at parliament are very clear. You claim for anything that is constituency business, it would be another thing if it were a party matter. I see constituents in my constituency office and I’m perfectly happy with that”
An SNP spokesman said: “MSPs work within strict rules set out by parliament and are able to claim reimbursement of travel costs undertaken in support of their parliamentary duties on behalf of constituents.”
Attempts were made to contact Mr Dey, Mr Swinney, Mr Campbell, Ms Baxter, Mr Fraser and Ms McInnes directly but they were either unavailable or did not respond.
Two MSPs SNP veteran Kenny MacAskill and Labour backbencher Hanzala Malik claimed 45p each way for journeys of just one mile.
In total, 25 SNP, 10 Labour, eight Conservative, two Liberal Democrat and one independent MSP claimed expenses for commuting costs. The total cost is thought to be in excess of £15,000.
A spokesman for the Scottish Parliament said: “An independent review of MSPs expenses’ scheme recognised this is a legitimate cost to reimburse, and that members are taxed accordingly in line with HMRC’s rules.”