SCOTLAND's deputy presiding officer has pocketed up to £30,000 of public money to cover her "hotel" costs despite the fact she did not stay in any. Labour MSP Trish Godman was living in her fraudster son's flat at a rate of around £100 a night ... but claiming hotel expenses from the Scottish parliament.

The deal, which was approved by Holyrood bosses, resulted in Godman racking up the highest "hotel" bill of any MSP since 1999.

The exposé is another hammer blow for the discredited Edinburgh Accommodation Allowance (EAA), the system that permits MSPs to recoup costs for staying overnight in Edinburgh.

Godman, who as deputy presiding officer is one of Holyrood's most senior politicians, is recorded as having claimed around £30,000 in "hotel" costs between 2001 and 2006.

But the Sunday Herald can reveal that the Labour MSP did not stay in hotels during this period.

The scandal can be traced to the purchase in 2001 of a lucrative flat on Holyrood Road by Godman's son, Gary Mulgrew. The banker bought the property for £245,000 without a mortgage, months after he and two colleagues had defrauded their employers of £3.7 million in an Enron-linked scam.

Mulgrew and his fellow conspirators, who were dubbed the NatWest Three, were each jailed for 37 months in Texas last November after pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud.

In September 2001, soon after Mulgrew bought the flat, which is yards from the Scottish parliament, Godman entered into a rental agreement with her son and stayed in the property when she was in Edinburgh.

She was unable to claim rent on the flat as her primary residence in Glasgow was too close to Holyrood to qualify for the subsidy. She was instead entitled to an overnight expenses allowance that permits MSPs to recoup £110.45 a night. In 2001, the rate was £83.97.

Parliamentary officials agreed a deal whereby Godman could stay in her son's flat and claim the allowance for every night spent in it. By 2005, she had run up the biggest hotel'' bill of any MSP, £23,000, despite living a train ride away from Edinburgh.

She claimed £26,000 between 2002 and 2006, with another £4757 being claimed in the year she signed the rental agreement. Each year the parliament described the claims as being for hotel costs. Her claim on the taxpayer exceeded £30,000 by November 2006, when she bought the flat from her son for a quarter of a million pounds. At that stage Mulgrew had been extradited to Texas and was desperate for money to pay his burgeoning legal costs.

The extraordinary arrangement raises questions about why the parliament permitted an MSP to claim an overnight allowance for staying in a relative's property. It also raises the prospect of taxpayers' money being used to help a convicted fraudster profit from an asset he bought months after making millions from a crooked business deal.

The Godman affair is the latest controversy to hit the EAA, which an independent report last week stated should be fundamentally reformed. The Allowances Review panel, chaired by Dundee University principal Sir Alan Langlands, backed the abolition of the MSPs' mortgage interest scheme and called for a ban on renting from relatives.

In 2006, the Sunday Herald revealed how Labour MSP John Home Robertson was billing the taxpayer £7000 a year to rent his son's flat. Another MSP, LibDem deputy leader Tavish Scott, was disclosed to have claimed rent on a property owned by his sister.

MSPs are expected to back the panel's EAA recommendations in full.

A sScottish parliament spokesman said: "Trish Godman, at her own expense, rented a flat in Edinburgh for her own convenience. The rental costs of this flat were not paid under the Allowances Scheme of the Scottish parliament. As with any MSP living at that distance from the parliament, she was entitled to claim overnight accommodation costs incurred as a result of staying in Edinburgh on parliamentary business upon production of a receipt.

"These claims were approved by the parliamentary authorities and were consistent with the Allowances Scheme. Allowances paid on the basis of claims made by Trish Godman are published, as is the case with all MSPs.

"She has not claimed any accommodation costs for overnight stays in Edinburgh since October 2006. We understand she does not claim any overnight costs as she is now the owner of a property in Edinburgh."

A Taxpayers' Alliance spokesman said: "The way some MSPs and MPs have been using their expenses is disgraceful. They should be trying to save as much public money as they can."

Tricia Godman could not be reached last night.

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