TAXPAYERS are facing a £1.5 million bill for golden goodbyes for MSPs after a record number announced they will stand down at the Holyrood election.

The scale of the exodus, with one in five MSPs leaving voluntarily, and the long service of those involved, means the cost of automatic “resettlement grants” has already hit £1.48m.

However, the final cost could double after MSPs who lose their seats are added next year.
The £1.48m includes a grant of £53,725 payable to Derek Mackay, who resigned as SNP Finance Secretary over a sleaze scandal in February and has since vanished from Holyrood.

Another £50,000 is also due to be paid and be split by four serving Cabinet secretaries who are standing down in May, as they qualify for additional ministerial severance payments.

And two-time Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles stands to collect a second grant of £32,235 after previously qualifying for £57,500 when he lost his seat in 2011. All of Holyrood’s parties have MSPs who will share in the payouts.The TaxPayers’ Alliance called the sums “outrageous” and urged the Scottish Government to change the law used to calculate the sums.

Under the Scottish Parliamentary Pensions Act of 2009, MSPs who stand down or lose at a Holyrood election automatically receive a payoff of between six and 12 months’ salary.

he money, the first £30,000 of which is tax free, is supposed to help them adjust to life outside Parliament.

All leavers and losers in 2021 will get at least £32,235, but those with more than six years’ service get extra according to their time in Holyrood, up to a maximum of £64,470.

So far, 26 of Holyrood’s 129 MSPs have announced they are standing down in May, and Derek Mackay is not expected to stand for re-election, making 27 leavers to date. Of these, more than half, 14, will qualify for a resettlement grant equal to a full year’s salary of £64,470.

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Another seven MSPs, including Mackay, get £53,725 for 10 years’ service, and five get £32,235 for serving a single term.

Former SNP minister Mark McDonald, who also resigned over a sleaze scandal in 2017, is expected to get £42,980 for eight years’ continuous service.

Although he was first elected in 2011, he briefly left Holyrood to fight a by-election in 2013.

In addition, the four SNP Cabinet secretaries who stand down are also entitled to a second grant for loss of ministerial office equivalent to £12,112.

The total bill to date for retiring MSPs and ministers is £1.54m.

As the biggest party, the SNP accounts for more than half of this. Collectively, the 14 SNP retiring MSPs are in line for grants of £816,620, with 10 of them collecting the maximum amount of £64,470.

The group includes Cabinet secretaries Aileen Campbell, Roseanna Cunningham, and Mike Russell, who are all entitled to maximum MSP resettlement grants of  £64,470 as well as grants for loss of ministerial office of £12,112, making £76,582 each in total.

eputy presiding officer Linda Fabiani is also entitled to a special grant for losing that post of £7,588, which when added to her maximum MSP payoff gives her a total of £72,058.
Although in the Cabinet, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman is standing down after a single term, so her MSP and ministerial grants come to a total of £44,347.

Mackay and McDonald have already been paid grants for loss of ministerial office of £11,945 and £7,270 respectively.

Five departing Labour MSPs are due £300,860 between them.

Four Tory leavers will share £182,665, with former leader Ruth Davidson due £53,725 before she takes up a £305-a-day seat in the House of Lords. Rumbles, who recently attended online meetings of Parliament while on holiday in Italy, is due £32,235 after one term as North East list MSP.

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This is on top of the £57,521 he qualified for when he lost his West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine seat in 2011, which led to an enforced five-year break from Parliament.

Combined, his past and future grants come to almost £90,000, two-thirds tax free.  Green MSP John Finnie is due a resettlement grant of £53,725 after a decade in Holyrood.

HeraldScotland:

The 26 willing leavers to date compares with 20 who quit at the 2011 election and the 24 who left voluntarily in 2016. However, the final bill may be much larger than £1.5m, as MSPs who stand for re-election and lose are entitled to the same level of resettlement grant.

In 2011 and 2016, more MSPs lost their seats than resigned voluntarily, with 28 losing in 2011 and 26 losing in 2016.

If the pattern is repeated in 2021, the payoff bill could double to around £3m. After the last election, the total bill for voluntary leavers and election losers was £2,106,691, while after 2011 it was £2,224,060.

Asked to defend the payouts, a Scottish Parliament spokesperson said: “The terms for resettlements grants for MSPs are set out in the Scottish Parliamentary Pensions Act (2009).”