Big-spending MSP counts cost of High Street office

John Lamont, seen here at the swearing in of MSPs, has defended his expenses bill
John Lamont, seen here at the swearing in of MSPs, has defended his expenses bill

JOHN Lamont says the cost of having an office on Hawick High Street is one of the reasons he has been listed among the top 10 highest-spending MSPs.

The Tory politican has defended his position as the ninth biggest spender out of 129 MSPs, with the member for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire claiming £32,667 in 2010/11 – which is up from £30,969 for 2009/10.

Mr Lamont said: “The vast majority of these expenses relate to the running of my constituency office in Hawick and my frequent travel around the Borders, and to and from parliament.”

The biggest single expenditure of all the MSPs’ expense claims was staff for offices, with the parliamentary members allowed to spend up to £59,000.

But the Hawick MSPs’ largest outlay has was for travel, on which he spent £9,664.

He says this high expenditure is as a result of his choice not to own a second home in the capital.

“Many MSPs claim large sums of money for second homes in Edinburgh. I made the decision not to have a second home and to travel from my home in Coldstream,” he stated. And highlighting the importance of his office in Hawick and the resultant travelling that it requires to keep in touch with townsfolk, he commented: “My constituency office is always very busy, but I always respond to my constituents and their enquires.”

He added: “I believe it is my duty as an MSP to help those who ask for my assistance and running an office to deal with this will always cost money.”

Former Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale MSP, Jeremy Purvis, was not far behind in 14th spot on £29,239 for the financial year before he lost his seat, including £7,958 on accommodation in Edinburgh. South of Scotland MSP Jim Hume was next highest Borders spender with £21,372, including £529 in motorcycle mileage.

Christine Grahame, then a South of Scotland MSP, claimed £14,668, down from £16,150 in 2009-10.

Details of all expenses and allowances for the 2010-11 financial year – which ended before May’s election – have been published on the parliament’s website.

In total, £11.8million was claimed by MSPs in 2010-11, up £186,000 on the previous year.