Saturday, November 24, 2007

MSPs scoop £1.1m payoffs in "resettlement" grants after quitting Parliament

Members of the Scottish Parliament never had it so good, even when they are no longer in the Scottish Parliament !

The Edinburgh News reports :

£1.1m pay-off bill for ex-MSPs


POLITICIANS who quit or lost their seats at this year's Holyrood elections have received more than £1.1 million in pay offs from the taxpayer.

The "resettlement" grants, which had to be found from Scottish Parliament contingency funds, are intended to help ease former MSPs back into everyday life.

Each of the 42 members who stood down or were defeated in May were entitled to £26,545 - half their final annual salary - under the golden handshake deal. The resettlement grants are based on a similar arrangement for retiring or defeated MPs at Westminster, where the payments are described as for "adjusting to non-parliamentary life".

But critics today questioned the size of the pay-outs. Graham Birse, deputy chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: "Democracy is an expensive business sometimes, but the alternatives are far more unpleasant.

"However, the packages available to MSPs are much more attractive than those available in the private sector."

He said politicians who put their careers on hold to go into parliament were entitled to some recompense when they returned to the mainstream.

But he said large sums were being paid out to politicians, some of whom had not served for very long. "The packages available here are extremely generous in relation to the amount of time they have served," he said.

Former independent MSP Brian Monteith, who stood down at the election, acknowledged voters might not be impressed with the pay-out to politicians.

But he said: "Many people probably think politicians are not worth being paid at all.

"Full-time politicians should expect to receive similar remuneration to top business people, given the onerous hours and the serious responsibilities on their shoulders - and that goes for a severance package too."

Colin Fox, who lost his seat as a Scottish Socialist MSP for Lothians, said the £26,000 resettlement grant could be seen like a redundancy payment but was more than the average wage for a year.

He said: "The four SSP former MSPs gave half our resettlement to the party in line with taking half the wages while we were there."

Former MSPs can also claim up to £20,233 each in "winding up" allowance to cover the cost of closing their offices and paying off staff.

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