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.
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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.
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.