Sunday, November 12, 2006

John Home Robertson to stand down in rental expenses scandal

More in from "A Diary of Injustice in Scotland" by Peter Cherbi at

MSP in rent row to stand down amid calls for reform of Scottish Parliament expenses gravy train

The Herald newspaper is reporting today that John Home Robertson MSP, who was caught claiming £7000 from the taxpayer to live in a £73,000 flat bought by his 17-year old son, with no mortgage, days before he became an MSP in 1999, will not seek reelection at next year's Holyrood elections. Too bad then, but there should be a full investigation into this matter .. hope someone has lodged complaints !

However, fear not readers .. as it seems Home Robertson is going off to the House of Lords .. where no doubt, the hard habit of milking one's expenses account will be a tough one to break .. and with the possibility of lucrative directorships of companies doing business with the Government of the day, as several lords have already taken up ... I'm sure we won't have heard the last of Home Robertson's activities by way of the gravy train.

Someone emailed me asking why I had covered the article here : Scottish Labour Politician rents his own son's flat for £7000 a year, charging it up to taxpayers ... and if I had anything against JHR. I don't. I don't even know him personally, but I know of him of course, as I know of a lot of the other msps ... and I do know he's one of those at Holyrood who have stood by from time to time and not done everything he should have for constituents .. so that lets me in to make a comment, or more, on it.

Today's Scotsman newspaper is also reporting calls for the MSPs' mortgage allowance to be reviewed .. although there certainly needs to be a much greater review than just the mortgage allowance ... with more immediate action than the laughable proposition from the Parliament's Speaker, who, the Scotsman are reporting wants any action on this to be delayed until the next parliament is formed.

"But he [George Reid] stressed nothing would be done before the election and any changes would have to be discussed by the new parliament elected next May."
That is a joke, right ?

Would anyone in their right mind, even a sober man, come out with such a ridiculous explanation in the wake of the recent media attention on our milking msps & the calls for action on this matter ?

How's his own expenses doing I wonder ? or those of his party colleagues ? and is this delay also to give time to the many msps who haven't declared everything they should ? ... amid fears that someone knows something and is about to publish .... but such information would be better saved for nearer the elections, wouldn't it ? much more impact around that time ... might knock the voters around a bit .. and serve some people right for not helping those who need it.

Anyway, Reid's delay, via the infamous Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, should give everyone time to milk as much as they can .. better get the mortgages paid up as much as possible then and get the properties sold off for big profits before any action after March 2007 does come on this one, if at all.

Looking through the Scotsman board on Monday's report on this issue .. which you can read here Calls to scrap allowance as MSP claims £979 a month for mortgage .. there were several good postings on just who was claiming what as an MSP ... which I have known for awhile anyway .. but how about we have the full list published in the papers ?

Every political party in Scotland has people who are milking the expenses .. but they made the rules so they could do that, and.. it's not just Labour, sadly

As the sole msp giving comment on this matter attacking the allowances scheme shows - Tommy Sheridan (who probably thinks he's landed on the moon on this one) that means there's too much to hide for everyone else to speak .. what is it ? Party orders from the whips not to condemn the allowance scheme ? or is it just that there's no one brave enough or clean enough left at Holyrood to tell the truth & tackle the issue ? .. I suspect it's the latter.. sadly.
Another whitewash from the whitewash of whitewashes to be expected .. but the dirt still flows, and more revelations on the cards, and thanks for the tip on the Wishaw matter, whoever gave it... seems to be checking out ...

Read on for the Herald & Scotsman articles, links to follow

John Home Robertson to stand down from Holyrood
CATHERINE MACLEOD November 08 2006

John Home Robertson, MSP for East Lothian, will not seek reselection for next year's Scottish parliamentary elections.

Mr Home Robertson, who has represented the Scottish parliamentary constituency since 1999, will tell the East Lothian Constituency Labour Party tomorrow night that he intends to stand down.

The MSP's decision to announce his intentions at this time triggered speculation within Labour's ranks. While he was not expected to fight the election, he was not expected to make his intentions clear until next spring.

One Scottish colleague claimed last night that he was standing down because of recent adverse publicity over his expenses – it is understood he claimed £7000 from the taxpayer to live in a flat bought by his 17-year old son days before he became an MSP – but last night Labour sources denied he was standing down for any other reason but to give the party plenty of time to select another candidate.

As speculation at Westminster suggests Mr Home Robertson will be bound for the House of Lords next year, a senior Labour figure insisted he was standing down now to avoid any suggestion of a Labour Party fix. The party is expecting the vacancy to attract interest from more than a handful of aspiring candidates. Iain Gray, a former Scottish Executive minister and now special adviser to Douglas Alexander, is almost certain to put his hat in the ring.

Mr Home Robertson, a favoured colleague of the late Donald Dewar, represented Westminster constituencies of Berwick and East Lothian, and later East Lothian since 1983, before electing to stand for the first Holyrood elections in 1999.

In the early years of the Scottish Parliament he was the Minister for Fisheries and Forestry, and in 2001 he took on convenership of the Holyrood Progress Group, which had responsibility for overseeing the completion of the new Parliament Building Project. He opposed calls to cap expenditure on the project.

And the version from today's Scotsman newspaper :

MSPs' mortgage allowance to be reviewed

HOLYROOD managers are to review the controversial housing system which allows MSPs to claim back mortgage payments from the taxpayer, it emerged last night.

George Reid, the Scottish Parliament's Presiding Officer, announced that officials would investigate the system and suggest possible reforms.

But he stressed nothing would be done before the election and any changes would have to be discussed by the new parliament elected next May.

MSPs can claim the Edinburgh Housing Allowance to cover interest-only mortgages on properties in the capital if they live too far away to commute to Edinburgh. They can also claim back the cost of utility bills and council tax on these properties.

The system has come in for intense criticism, particularly because some MSPs have bought properties using the scheme then sold them later for substantial profits which they have been able to keep for themselves.

The scheme came under the spotlight again earlier this week when it emerged that Tavish Scott, the transport minister and MSP for Shetland, has been claiming £979 a month from the taxpayer to cover the costs of a mortgage and other bills on a big house in the city's Morningside area.

Tommy Sheridan, the Solidarity MSP, has been a vociferous critic of the scheme and has called for it to be scrapped as soon as possible.

Jack McConnell has also expressed his reservations about the scheme and has called on the Scottish Parliament's Corporate Body (SPCB) to review it.

Yesterday the corporate body met and decided the scheme should be reviewed - but not until after the election.

Mr Reid said: "The current system of allowances was brought in by unanimous vote of parliament in June 2001. The Corporate Body has no authority to alter that system. It can be changed only after further debate and vote of parliament.

"We acknowledge that there are issues to be addressed, but they are complex and have to be addressed in total."

And he added: "It is the SPCB's intention to have all the arguments delineated by March 2007 for determination by our successors after the elections in May."

The review of the Edinburgh Accommodation Allowance will be part of a broader investigation into the allowances system for MSPs.

Officials will be asked to find out whether there is any realistic alternative, either for the parliament to purchase a block of flats for MSPs or to put them all up in hotels, or whether there is any way of preventing the MSPs from making a profit, while keeping the system broadly the same as it is now.

Other parts of the system have come in for criticism, particularly as all MSPs get access to the same resources, whether or not they are constituency MSPs with constituency workloads, or regional list MSPs with a much broader remit.

Other changes which could come about as a result of the review are:

• Changes to the pay and conditions of MSPs' staff. At the moment researchers and secretaries are paid out of each individual MSP's allowance, but this could be changed to make them direct employees of the parliament.

• Changes to the office system, setting down different requirements for constituency and regional list MSPs.

Mr Sheridan said last night the review was "long overdue" but "welcome none the less". He said: "The Edinburgh accommodation scheme is not only discredited, it's unacceptable. No individual MSP should be allowed to personally profit from an accommodation scheme in the future and any changes must take effect immediately

"In addition, MSPs' salaries should be reduced to reflect the average wage of skilled workers in Scotland and all parliamentary staff should become proper paid employees with trade union rights and conditions instead of being employed directly by individual MSPs," he added.

Taxpayer picks up the property tab


TAVISH Scott, right, is the latest MSP to become embroiled in controversy over the Edinburgh accommodation allowance after it emerged earlier this week that he was charging the taxpayer nearly £1,000 a month to cover his costs for a £380,000 house in Edinburgh.

Mr Scott, the transport minister and MSP for Shetland, is claiming £979 a month to pay a mortgage and other bills on a home in the Morningside area.

Mr Scott has already made £36,000 on an Edinburgh flat he bought with the public purse and traded up to the bigger property with the help of the allowance.

The allowance is supposed to provide MSPs with accommodation for the days they stay in Edinburgh. Most have invested in small city-centre flats, but Mr Scott is the only one to have used the scheme to buy a big, family house.

Mr Scott has not broken any rules, but his use of the allowance to purchase such a big property fuelled demands for change.


THE Labour MSP John Home Robertson was criticised after it was revealed last month he was claiming £7,000 a year of taxpayers' money to live in his son's Edinburgh flat.

He charges Holyrood £600 a month to rent a property bought in the name of his son Patrick days before the first elections to the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

Mr Home Robertson, the MSP for East Lothian, was able to make the claim as his home in the Borders is classed as beyond daily commuting distance.

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