Going the distance over expenses

Politicians’ expenses is a subject guaranteed to fire up the Great British/Scottish public.

This is especially so since the Westminster scandal of a few years ago when some MPs were caught with their hands in the till. Indeed, since that crisis of 2009, five MPs and two peers have been sent to prison for offences relating to their expenses.

Today, on page 5, we report that the five MSPs who represent the Borders at Holyrood claimed in excess of £120,000 in expenses during 2013/14. We are not suggesting that these elected representatives have broken any rules or done anything illegal, but some parts of our article do raise questions – particularly when it comes to overnight stays.

Liberal Democrat Jim Hume picked up £20,788 as a result of his 312 claims – including 71 overnight stops in Edinburgh at a cost to the public purse of £7,759. When one considers Mr Hume lives in Newtown – less than an hour’s drive from the capital – Borderers, many struggling on low wages, would be forgiven for wondering if all these overnighters are really necessary for the governance of our country.

Then there’s John Lamont, who collected a total of £33,676 (716 claims). The Coldstream-residing Tory MSP claimed £3,649 for 34 Edinburgh overnight stops, despite the Berwickshire town being less than 50 miles away.

Perhaps there’s a perfectly-reasonable explanation for these claims – we’re sure our readers would like to hear it.