Labour MSP Jack (now Lord) McConnell is in line for a near £60,000 cash bonanza when he abandons Holyrood for the luxurious red leather benches of The Lords.
The Motherwell and Wishaw MSP and former First Minister, who once described his constituency as a “pigsty”, will pocket the windfall along with a £38,500 a year pension in May this year.
The lucrative pay off and generous pension can be supplemented by a House of Lords tax free expenses system that allows peers to claim over £60,000 per year.
Last May McConnell joined Scottish Labour colleagues Helen Liddell, John McFall, Tommy McAvoy, John Reid and Des Browne on a list of Scottish Labour politicians rewarded for party loyalty by the outgoing UK Labour government.
As members of the unelected chamber the Labour politicians are entitled to claim tax free expenses covering daily living, overnight accommodation and office costs of over £335 per day – this can be supplemented by travel costs.
In 2008 fellow Scottish Labour colleague Baroness Adams of Craiglea, who as Irene Adams represented Paisley North for 15 years until 2005, was the second-most expensive peer in the Lords, claiming £66,896 in allowances including £30,212 for overnight accommodation, despite having spoken in the Upper Chamber only once. In each of the previous two years she claimed in excess of £60,000.
In the same year George Foulkes, who like Jack McConnell is also an MSP, claimed £54,527 in expenses as a member of the House of Lords. 2008 also saw Lord Watson of Invergowrie, the former Labour minister who was convicted of fire-raising, claimed £42,805 for attending on 129 days.
McConnell, who has represented Motherwell and Wishaw since 1999, will receive the £57,250 golden handshake when he leaves Holyrood under new rules introduced in 2009 – the first £30,000 is tax free. The new legislation means that all MSPs can receive one year’s pay if they serve for 12 years.
The system was condemned by critics who suggested that politicians should be treated no differently to anyone else whose contract has ended.
TaxPayers’ Alliance spokesman John O’Connell said: “When an MSP wins an election he or she enters a contract with a term of four years. If they then go on to lose the election this is not the equivalent of redundancy – it is the end of their contract.”