Borders MSP facing £52,500 bill over breach of pension laws

MSP Rachael Hamilton and husband Billy at the Buccleuch Arms, St Boswells.
MSP Rachael Hamilton and husband Billy at the Buccleuch Arms, St Boswells.

Borders MSP Rachael Hamilton is facing a bill of more than £50,000 for falling foul of pension laws.

The Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP, also a hotelier, was originally fined £400 in February last year for breaching workplace pension legislation at the Buccleuch Arms at St Boswells.

The Hamiltons with Carol Smillie at an award ceremony last year.

The Hamiltons with Carol Smillie at an award ceremony last year.

She and husband Billy, co-owner of the hotel, were then charged an additional £2,500 a day for non-compliance with the law, a penalty eventually capped at £52,500 in May last year.

The 47-year-old, of Maxton, near St Boswells, is now being taken to court over that bill – in excess of 130 times the original fine and more than five-sixths of her basic MSP’s annual salary – by the Pensions Regulator but is contesting it and has lodged an appeal.

Mrs Hamilton, a Conservative list MSP for South Scotland from May 2016 until she won her current constituency seat at last June’s Holyrood election, claims the original breach of the law was down to a typographical error since rectified.

She also insists that she and Mr Hamilton, 45 this month, were unaware of the fine and escalating penalty notice until October last year due to correspondence being sent to the wrong email address.

Their company, trading as Borders Hotels, is now compliant with the 2008 Pensions Act requiring employers to enrol staff in a pension scheme and make contributions to it, they say.

A spokesman from the Pensions Regulator said: “We don’t routinely comment on individual cases.”

Mrs Hamilton, the Conservatives’ spokesman for tourism and small business at Holyrood, said: “All employees of Borders Hotels are fully enrolled in pension schemes and no contributions have been missed.

“The company employed to ensure the documents of compliance for auto-enrolment were correctly submitted made a typo on the reference number of one document.

“The deadline was therefore missed, but notification was sent to the wrong email address, so we were not informed.

“This is now going through the appeal process.

“As a locally-based family-run business, we will continue to invest in the pensions and training of all our employees.”

Calls for Mrs Hamilton to be sacked as a party spokesman over the slip-up have been dismissed by the Conservatives.