The cost of meeting and eating: The MSPs hungry for our cash

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by G.A.Ponsonby

It brought shame on Westminster and has led to several Labour MPs being convicted of fraud.  It is of course the age old gravy train known as MPs’ expenses.

Readers of Newsnet Scotland will be heartened to know that our intrepid researchers are continuing their forensic scrutiny of the Holyrood equivalent known to Scottish journalists as ‘the forbidden zone’ –  namely the MSPs’ expenses database.

The repository of information that led to Scottish Labour’s ‘printergate’ (ME2 Communications) story being exposed continues to throw up interesting little nuggets of information and data – look out for our latest expenses revelation next week.

However, whilst we add the finishing touches to our next expenses exposé we thought you might be interested in finding out just how much of your public cash is being used in order to feed the hungriest of our elected representatives as they embark on that most draining of all democratic processes – the meeting.

Did you ever wonder who is the champion of the tea and biscuits invoice or who fills their pockets after filling their plate?

Well, after perusing the expenses menu for 2009/10 and chewing over and digesting the resultant numbers, you need wonder no more as Newsnet Scotland finally reveals who the gluttons of our democracy are.

The party who received the ‘buffet trophy’ for 2009/10 was in fact those cutters of public spending and promoters of the free market – the Tories.  The average claim for tea/biscuits and meals from the 16 ‘Free Marketeers’ in 2009/10 was an unhealthy £217.08.

Finishing a close second and almost matching the Tories munch for munch and chit for chat was the Labour party.  The average Labour claim of £210.11 for ‘eating and meeting’ proving that it isn’t just East Lothian campaign barbecues that need help from the public purse.

The MVD (Most Valuable Diner) in all of this was Tory John Lamont who claimed a total of £849.21 for tea/biscuits and meals for meetings for that term, the most of any MSP.  Mr Lamont was pushed hard by Labour’s Karen Gillon who claimed an equally mouth watering £797.42.

In the category breakdown Lamont also claimed the prize for meals, mopping up £834.54 which was way ahead of Labour’s very own ‘glutton for nourishment’ Jackie Baillie.  The meal ticket for Labour’s health spokeperson cost the public £672.74.

The tea and biscuits award went to Labour’s Mary Mulligan.  This ‘Jammie Dodger’ persuaded the expenses department to supply her with £355.93 for meetings.

It should be mentioned that the person usually accepted as having the most extensive responsibility for entertaining guests is usually the Presiding Officer.  The other important factor is that 2009/10 was an extremely busy year for Kenny MacAskill who entertained many people in relation to the issue of Mr Abdelbaset Al Megrahi.

Oh, and a special commendation to the Greens who appear to have required only fresh air and water for sustenance for themselves and guests when attending meetings.