ALLOWANCES for the 48 MSPs who stepped down or lost their seats last year has pushed up Holyrood expense claims.
MSPs claimed more than £12.8 million in expenses, up 8.2% on the previous year due to winding-up expenses claimed by politicians who either stood down or were not returned to the Scottish Parliament at the 2011 elections.
Excluding these costs, the total expenses paid out to MSPs was just over £11.3m, which represents a decrease of more than £500,000 on the previous year. Winding-up expenses included staff salary costs, staff redundancy and office and accommodation costs.
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Orkney MSP Liam McArthur retained his status as biggest-spending claimant – unsurprising given his transport costs – while most other high claimants had remote or island responsibilities.
Again the usual suspects for smallest claimants emerged as Lothian MSPs – although this time Mid Scotland and Fife member Annabelle Ewing was the most parsimonious at £3460 to trump Margo MacDonald's usual position at the head of the list.
A Holyrood spokesman said: "Once election-related winding-up costs are set aside, we see a fall of more than £500,000 in members' expenses, which reflects the two-year pay and expenses freeze that Holyrood has in place.
"The Scottish Parliament is on course to achieve a 12% saving over four years by 2014/15, which means its annual expenditure will be down by £9.5m in real terms."
Party leaders' allowance claims fell from £39,829 to £38,368 in 2011/12, a difference of £1461. Stationery and postage provision fell by £15,129 from £471,296 to £456,167.
First Minister Alex Salmond claimed £13,361 on expenses such as office rent, travel costs including mileage, and phone bills.
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont spent £17,831, which included overnight hotel stays in Edinburgh as well as taxi and train fares. The Glasgow MSP spent £800 on website costs and more than £1050 on surgery advertising.
Tory leader Ruth Davidson recorded £20,440 of expenses for 2011/12. Her expenses include £148 in June 2011, shortly after the Scottish elections, for MSP staff training entitled "dealing with difficult people".
Willie Rennie, leader of the Liberal Democrats, claimed £19,738, including almost £361 on return flights from Edinburgh to Heathrow in July 2011.
Meanwhile, Green Party co-leader Patrick Harvie spent £24,266 on expenses – including rail passes, overnight hotel stays and other costs.
MSPs spent a total of £6608.32 on hotel meals, with independent MSP Bill Walker accounting for £609 and SNP MSP James Dornan spending £538 on meals.
Elsewhere, Margaret Burgess, Minister for Housing and Welfare, spent just over £85 on a coat stand for her office, while Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead claimed £368 for a computer desk.
Bill Walker went to budget retailer Poundstretcher to furnish his office, spending £5.99 on a table for the kettle in his constituency office. MSPs spent a total of £12,706 on furniture and internal office decoration.