Fri 14 Oct 2005 

10:42am (UK)

McLetchie expenses investigated 

Scottish Tory leader David McLetchie billed the taxpayer for a journey to the Conservative conference south of the border.

Mr McLetchie charged the Scottish Parliament £166.39 for the return flight and train journey to Bournemouth on October 7, 2002. The Edinburgh Pentlands MSP also claimed for a £90 return taxi trip on November 28, 2003, to Midlem, near Selkirk in the Borders, which is outside his constituency.

As the trips were not for parliamentary business, the Conservative leader approached Holyrood officials in March this year to repay the cash.

It emerged earlier that he used taxpayers' money to go from his home to the Playhouse Theatre, to the National Gallery and to the exclusive New Club, all in Edinburgh. It was also disclosed under freedom of information laws that he billed taxpayers for £900 of cab journeys to his former law firm in the Scottish capital, Tods Murray.

Mr McLetchie has insisted his taxi trips with public cash were for legitimate purposes but £5,000 out of more than £11,500 in taxi claims were to unspecified destinations.

Mike Dailly, principal solicitor at Govan Law Centre in Glasgow, said that Audit Scotland should investigate the money claimed. He told BBC Radio Scotland that Mr McLetchie should either produce details of what he had claimed for or pay the money back.

"I would like that £5,000 accounted for," Mr Dailly told BBC Radio Scotland. "I don't think that's unreasonable. It's incumbent on Mr McLetchie to vouch for the purpose of those journeys and if he can't do that, he has to pay that money back."

A Holyrood spokesman said: "We can confirm that David McLetchie discovered two errors in claims he had made in the years 2002/3 to 2003/4 respectively. In March 2005 he notified the allowances office of this and repaid the sum of £90 in respect of a return journey to Midlem in the Borders and the sum of £166.39 in relation to a return journey to Bournemouth."

Mr McLetchie is on holiday in New Zealand and was unavailable for comment. No one from the Scottish Tories was available for comment either.

Earlier the Scottish Parliament announced that it had deducted £6,000 from the pension of former Lib Dem MSP Keith Raffan following an audit into irregularities in his travel expenses claims.

© Copyright Press Association Ltd 2005, All Rights Reserved.


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