Scottish MPs have spent £180,000 in taxpayers’ cash bringing their partners and children to London on expenses.
Two local MPs Martin Docherty Hughes and Brendan O’Hara, SNP members for West Dunbartonshire and Argyll respectively, are part of the group with their snouts in the trough.
Official figures analysed by Hannah Rodger, chief reporter of the Sunday Mail found that dozens of MPs have claimed expenses for their relatives’ travel since the last election.
The practice is allowed under current parliamentary rules. But a senior charity boss has questioned if it is the best use of public money during a cost-of-living crisis.
Tory Alister Jack and the SNP’s Martin Docherty-Hughes and Brendan O’Hara.
Chris Birt, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s associate director for Scotland, said: “Hundreds of thousands of people across Scotland are desperately struggling to make ends meet in the face of inflation, real-terms cuts to pay and an inadequate benefits system and will no doubt be surprised that MPs are able to take advantage of a benefit that very few others will benefit from.”
According to figures from Westminster watchdog the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), 47 of the 59 Scottish MPs have claimed for “dependant” travel since 2019.
The largest claim was made by Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack, who has been given £12,709 during the course of this parliament for his wife or children to travel to and from London.
In the last year the MP for Dumfries and Galloway has claimed £2695 in car mileage for 17 trips for his family. He also claimed for a £407.40 train ticket for his wife to get to Westminster in July 2022.
The second-highest claimant was SNP MP for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill Steven Bonnar, who has been given £12,009 since 2019 for his family to visit. He’s been handed £4820.89 between April 2022 and March this year for flights, taxis and trains between Glasgow and London for his family,
SNP MP for Central Ayrshire Philippa Whitford and Tory MP for Banff and Buchan David Duguid have also claimed more than £10,000 in the past four years for their dependents to come to London, with Whitford getting £11,939.13 and Duguid receiving £10,669.46.
The fifth-highest claimant was SNP MP for Linlithgow and East Falkirk Martyn Day, who was given £9593.72 to cover the cost of his family’s trips. Ian Murray, Labour’s only Scottish MP, who represents Edinburgh South, has claimed £4196.29 for relatives to come to and from London.
While dozens of MPs claimed expenses for their families to travel to London, 12 claimed nothing, including former SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, Edinburgh Central MP Joanna Cherry, Tory MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk John Lamont and ex-SNP MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West Margaret Ferrier.
Birt said: “It will particularly stick in the craw of families who are forced into poverty by the cruel austerity policy of the two-child cap.
“The House of Commons should be a more accessible workplace, including for those from a low-income background, but that would be much more likely if MPs prioritised reducing poverty rather than maintaining it, and tightened their own belts rather than imposing further austerity on public services, businesses and households.”
MPs are allowed to claim back the cost of their dependents and spouses to travel every year to London from their constituencies as long as the family members are registered with IPSA and fall under certain criteria. Any spouse, civil partner or partner who the MP lives with is covered while children under 18 or those aged 18-21 who are in full time education, or who receive selected benefits payments, are also included.
Parliamentarians are also allowed £5,720 extra in their accommodation budgets for each of their dependents so they can rent larger second homes.
Rules were relaxed in 2011 to allow MPs to claim for children’s travel and to get a larger budget to rent a bigger home after MPs lobbied for changes.
The scheme was supposed to make becoming an MP more accessible for people with young children or who have other caring responsibilities.
However it has previously been reported that some MPs were claiming extra in their accommodation budgets for their adult children who were studying away at university.
When they were revealed, two of the MPs agreed to return the extra money while others insisted they had complied with the rules.
An IPSA spokesman said: “We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to be an MP, and this includes those with caring responsibilities. As representatives of our democracy, MPs should receive support in performing their role while caring for dependents.
“This is why we cover travel costs for MPs and some family members, so that they have the space to stay together, and to travel together on journeys from their constituency to London.”
The Sunday Mail contacted the 15 MPs with the highest claims.
Tory MPs Alister Jack and David Duguid did not respond to our request for comment.
Scottish Labour’s only MP Ian Murray, pictured right, did not want to comment on his family travel expenses claims.
The SNP responded on behalf of all of its MPs.
A spokeswoman said: “MPs for a number of legitimate reasons, including caring responsibilities, are entitled to claim travel costs for partners and dependents when travelling between their constituency and Westminster Parliament.”
The MPs and what they claimed
These 47 MPs have claimed expenses for their families to travel to London.
The total amount is what they have claimed for this between April 2019 until July 2023.
Alister Jack – Dumfries and Galloway – £12,709.10
Steven Bonnar – Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill – £12,008.94
Philippa Whitford – Central Ayrshire – £11,939.13
David Duguid – Banff and Buchan – £10,669.46
Martyn Day – Linlithgow and East Falkirk – £9,593.72
John Nicolson – Ochil and South Perthshire – £7,524.43
Douglas Chapman – Dunfermline and West Fife – £6,605.61
Kirsty Blackman – Aberdeen North – £6,359.43
Owen Thompson – Midlothian – £6,356.73
Gavin Newlands – Paisley and Renfrewshire North – £5,588.94
Hannah Bardell – Livingston – £4,911.12
Carol Monaghan – Glasgow North West – £4,788.96
Dave Doogan – Angus – £4,752.59
Ian Murray – Edinburgh South – £4,196.29
Mhairi Black – Paisley and Renfrewshire South – £3,698.53
Andrew Bowie – West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine – £3,521.87
Stewart Hosie – Dundee East – £3,511.50
John McNally – Falkirk – £3,377.16
Richard Thomson – Gordon – £3,353.98
Jamie Stone – Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross – £3,261.26
Stewart McDonald – Glasgow South – £3,248.01
David Linden – Glasgow East – £3,232.62
Angus MacNeil – Western Isles – £2,890.75
Alistair Carmichael – Orkney and Shetland – £2,745.34
Neale Hanvey – Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath – £2,485.66
Alan Brown – Kilmarnock and Loudoun – £2,463.62
Douglas Ross – Moray – £2,450.67
Lisa Cameron – East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow – £2,087.69
Martin Docherty-Hughes – West Dunbartonshire – £2,079.99
Kenny MacAskill – East Lothian – £2,055.58
Anne McLaughlin – Glasgow North East – £1,828.66
Chris Law – Dundee West – £1,789.37
Wendy Chamberlain – North East Fife – £1,720.59
Pete Wishart – Perth and North Perthshire – £1,625.43
Alison Thewliss -Glasgow Central – £1,525.21
Tommy Sheppard – Edinburgh East – £1,406.26
Stephen Flynn – Aberdeen South – £1,386.43
Alyn Smith – Stirling – £1,083.68
Allan Dorans – Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock – £1,067.07
Angela Crawley – Lanark and Hamilton East – £1,002.59
Brendan O’Hara – Argyll and Bute – £752.89
Anum Qaisar – Airdrie and Shotts – £735.51
Peter Grant – Glenrothes – £390.53
Kirsten Oswald – East Renfrewshire – £379.34
Amy Callaghan – East Dunbartonshire – £378.75
Christine Jardine – Edinburgh West – £329.46
Ronnie Cowan – Inverclyde – £229.06