Euro politician Catherine Stihler uses £5000 a year from her expenses to rent part of an office owned by MSP Helen Eadie.
Sir Alistair Graham, the former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said the arrangement looked like a “convenient and cosy deal”.
Westminster’s tarnished expenses system suffered a fresh blow last year after it was revealed a number of MPs were claiming allowances for renting each other’s flats. The practice was criticised as it allowed public money to go into the pockets of MPs who were landlords.
At Holyrood, MSPs are banned from renting domestic properties to each other, but there is no bar on politicians who sit in different parliaments renting commercial property to each other.
Stihler, an MEP for nearly 14 years, started to rent part of 25 Church Street in Inverkeithing in 2008.
A legal agreement, a copy of which is available at Registers of Scotland, reveals the rent is currently £5000 a year. According to official property records, the landlord of the building is Eadie, the Labour MSP for Cowdenbeath
Eadie bought the office for £28,000 in November 1999, six months after first being elected to Holyrood. She also uses the property as a constituency base.
The revelations are likely to lead to fresh scrutiny of the pay and expenses enjoyed by MEPs.
MEPs are paid an annual salary of €91,980 and a “daily attendance” allowance of €298. In addition, they can claim up to €4202 a month from the “general expenditure” allowance, which covers items such as office rent, telephone costs and IT.
Staffing costs are covered by a “parliamentary assistance” pot, from which MEPs can draw on up to €17,540 a month. Travel allowances are also available.
In a section marked “transparency and staff” on her website, Stihler provides a quarterly breakdown of how her allowances are spent. One category is “office management and running costs”, but she does not mention the rental deal with a party colleague.
Eadie, who declares the rental income on her Holyrood register of interest, is a long-serving MSP. For over a decade she used her taxpayer-funded Holyrood allowances to employ her husband Robert.
On her website, Stihler states: “I DO NOT employ family members as employees, service providers or paying agents in any capacity.”
None of Scotland’s five other MEPs rent an office owned by a party colleague.
Graham said of the revelations: “This arrangement will raise questions in the public mind about whether it was a convenient and cosy deal.
“The public may also wonder whether the MEP would have been better served entering into another commercial arrangement that could have benefited the town in question.
“This shows the need for constant vigilence to ensure that public funds are used in a sensible way.”
SNP MSP John Wilson said: “The revelation that Catherine Stihler rents a property through her European allowances should not be a surprise to anyone, but the fact she rents from Helen Eadie raise questions.
“Parliamentarians at all levels have to be mindful of public perception when it comes to claiming expenses, as well as the perception of who is profiting financially from the system.”
Stihler said: “Like many politicians from all parties, I share an office with another politician.
“I pay a fair rent for the space for my office in Inverkeithing and have a legal rental agreement.
“I have a track record of paying money back to the Parliament each year from any underspend in my office allowance and this can be viewed on my website.”
After the Sunday Herald emailed her for comment, Eadie said her “press team” would provide a response.
She added: “You should note that I have told my constituency and my colleagues in the Parliament that I shall not be seeking reselection for the next Parliamentary elections.”
Later, Eadie issued a statement: “I have saved the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds since 1999 in neither taking rent nor mortgage costs for my office from the taxpayer.
“The arrangement between myself and Ms Stihler is open and transparent and has been declared properly.”
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