Housing boom - for Members of the Scottish Parliament

A freedom of information request to the Scottish Parliament has revealed that 10 ministers in the Scottish Executive are amongst 40 MSPs who claim public money to help pay the mortgage on their Edinburgh homes.

Scottish politicians are entitled to an Edinburgh accommodation allowance of up to £10,600 a year, but officials refused to reveal how much the mortgages were or when the properties were purchased, on the basis that it would be unfair to release "personal data".

The Edinburgh Evening News stated that those using the allowance to pay the interest on their mortgage included six members of Jack McConnell's Cabinet - Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace, finance minister Tom McCabe, health minister Andy Kerr, education minister Peter Peacock, environment minister Ross Finnie and transport minister Nicol Stephen. Four deputy ministers - Hugh Henry, Tavish Scott, Euan Robson and Allan Wilson - are also buying property with the allowance. A total of 41 current MSPs and seven former MSPs have claimed for mortgages since the scheme started in 1999. Other prominent figures on the list include former presiding officer Sir David Steel, deputy presiding officer Murray Tosh and ex-SNP leader John Swinney.

Scottish Socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan, who made the FoI request, said: "These MSPs are among the best-paid people in Scotland, on over £50,000 a year. Ministers are on £80,000 a year. And just to make them feel good, we throw in a publicly assisted property scheme which can make them at least another £50,000-£100,000. It is an absolute outrage and it must stop."

Sheridan said he had appealed against the Parliament's decision not to publish further details of the payments.

Revealed: the MSPs' houses we paid for (Edinburgh Evening News, 4 June 2005)