I take the view that it is important that MSPs and their staff have access to the resources that allows them to do their jobs and provide a service in the most effective and efficient way they can.
It is also important however that MSPs are totally transparent in the way they spend tax payers money in order to do their job. Details of MSPs expenses/expenditure can be found on the Scottish Parliament web site at: http://mspallowances.scottish.parliament.uk/. In addition to this information I have decided to publish my expenses on my own web site and give further details of any expenditure where that is needed, and I am happy to answer any questions any constituents may have.
This year was my first year as an MSP after being elected at the end of January and much of my costs in this year have been for setting up my constituency office. My constituency office is open Monday to Friday and is based in Cowdenbeath which is a central point for the whole constituency which stretches from Dalgety Bay and Rosyth up to Cardenden and Ballingry. My office is on the High Street and is accessible by bus (No 19), train and there are also car parks on Stenhouse Street, just opposite us.
My expenses show that over the last period I spent £2,613.63 on setting up the office and this included new carpets, replacement lights and the building of a new counter which gives staff security and, although listed as oak, it should be made clear it is an oak veneer finish. I also had signage put up on the outside of the office and in the windows at a cost of £438.45. There was also a cost for installing a phone system and the on-going costs of the phone charges.
As a constituency MSP I am keen to meet as many people as possible across the constituency to pick up any issues and views you may have. As part of my wish to maintain regular contact with constituents I hold monthly surgeries on the last Monday of the month in Inverkeithing, Dalgety Bay, Rosyth and Crossgates and the last Friday of each month in Cardenden, Lochgelly, Ballingry and Kelty as well as a two hour office session on the last Saturday of each month. These surgeries are advertised in the Central Fife Times and Dunfermline Press and for the last period this cost £1,006.56. I also pay for hall hire for the surgeries from the office allowance.
I also carry out local street surgeries where I write out to constituents advising that myself, and my staff, will visit a street on a certain date and if the constituent would like us to knock on their door they display a card in their window. The cost of postage for this is shown in a separate budget and will also be published.
I do not claim any travel expenses for travelling back and forward to the Parliament as I take the view that the majority of my constituents who travel back and forward to work in Edinburgh will not get their travel paid for them. I have, since January, stayed over in Edinburgh twice as a result of late evening engagements and early morning meetings and, on both occasions, I have claimed the cost of the hotel. I have two members of staff based in the Cowdenbeath office and one member of staff based in Edinburgh. When the Parliament is on leave, and also when doing work such as street surgeries, the member of staff based in Edinburgh spends time working in the constituency and is entitled to have travel from their place of work paid and this is shown in the expenses as staff travel provision.