Politics

Douglas Ross claimed expenses on day he failed to declare match cash

Douglas Ross is under fire after claiming taxpayer-funded travel expenses on the same day he failed to declare referee earnings.

The Scottish Conservative leader has been forced to apologise again, after it emerged he has still not declared a high-profile Hampden game, where he was paid around £445.

But the politician, who is an MP, MSP and linesman, did claim for almost £93 the same day on his MP’s expenses.

The Moray MP claimed £48.99 for parking and £43 for a return rail ticket on November 1, 2020 –  the same day he officiated at the delayed Scottish Cup semi-final match between Aberdeen and Celtic in Glasgow.

However, the Sunday Mail revealed he has yet to declare the key Cup match on his newly-updated MP Registers of Financial Interests.

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said the “error” would be rectified in the coming week, adding Mr Ross “has held his hands up for mistakes in declaring them”.

‘Poorly handled episode’

The revelations come amid the continued fallout around Owen Paterson and corruption scandals that have hit the Conservative Party in recent weeks.

Speaking to BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show, Mr Ross said Prime Minister Boris Johnson has accepted the Paterson affair was “an extremely poorly handled episode”.

Asked three times if he still had confidence in the prime minister, Mr Ross eventually confirmed he did but admitted Mr Johnson had “got it badly wrong”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced criticism for his handling of the Owen Paterson affair.

The Tory MP said the £82,000 MP salary was “extremely generous” and that those who feel they need a second job to supplement that salary “shouldn’t be a Conservative MP or a member of parliament”.

On his failure to declare his own outside earnings to Westminster, Mr Ross said he had “held his hands up” that he “got that wrong”.

He added: “I should have declared it. The MSP salary is the one that has the bulk of money attached to it and that’s all donated to local charities here in Moray.”

Asked if he should give up his job as a referee, Mr Ross said he has worked at “one game since January”.

Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross in Holyrood.

He added: “While I’ve been an MP and an MSP, it has not been something that I have been practicing but it is something I enjoy doing and MPs, MSPs, councillors, politicians are allowed a life outside politics and I think if we do away with that, that’s a greater risk in encouraging people to come forward for elected office.”

SNP MSP Neil Gray claims Mr Ross’ party “must be wondering how long they can continue to put up with him as leader”, following the latest revelations.

He said: “Douglas Ross apparently ‘forgets’ to declare thousands of pounds from being a linesman – but has no problem remembering to claim parliamentary expenses, even on days he was a linesman.

Neil Gray MSP

“If this had been someone on Universal Credit they would have been sanctioned.

“This latest revelation raises some very uncomfortable questions for Mr Ross given his previous failure to declare earnings from matches which have now been exposed as taking place on days when he claimed parliamentary expenses.

“He clearly has some detailed explaining to do – and his abject failure to clear this up a week on from the first revelations about his undeclared earnings just adds to the stench of Tory sleaze.”

‘He has held his hands up’

A Conservative Party spokesman added: “Douglas has made the register of interests aware of this payment and has apologised for this error.

“A member of Douglas’s office is responsible for handling his expenses and they properly registered all claims as required by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

“His football payments were handled by Douglas personally, not his office, since they are an outside interest, and he has held his hands up for making mistakes in declaring them.”

Mr Ross apologised and referred himself to the standards commissioner last week after it emerged he failed to register his MSP salary – which he donates to charity – and earnings from some of his referee appearances in the official register of income at Westminster.

We revealed the Moray MP also faces fresh questions over his outside earnings after leaving money banked in his role as a football referee before becoming an MSP off his Holyrood register of interests.



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