The Brexit Party’s Scottish MEP provoked social media controversy after questioning the cost of the Scottish Parliament.

Louis Stedman-Bryce was elected for Nigel Farage’s party in May 2019. He suggested that the cost of the Scottish Parliament and First Minister’s wages could be spent better elsewhere if Holyrood was closed.

With a First Minister paid more than the PM & a Parliament that costs almost £100,000,000 per year, many believe this money could be used to develop Scotland & the UK rather than divide it. Louis Stedman-Bryce, Brexit Party MEP

Ferret Fact Service looked at his claim and found it Mostly False.

Evidence

All Scottish ministers’ pay is published annually, with MSPs being paid a standard salary of £63,579 as of 1 April 2019. Ministers get an added salary on top of this, bringing their total to £93,510 (including the MSP salary).

The annual salary for the First Minister is £92,101, plus £63,579 standard MSP wages. This brings Nicola Sturgeon’s total entitlement to £155,680.

However, while this is the annual salary available to the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon continues the convention of not taking her entire entitlement. A voluntary pay freeze for cabinet positions has been in place since 2008-09, which means the First Minister takes home £135,605, while ministers earn £96,999.

The UK Prime Minister is entitled to £79,286, however thanks to a similar pay freeze Boris Johnson will only claim £75,440. This is on top of his MP salary which amounts to £79,468. This means his overall salary is £154,908 which is £19,303 more than the First Minister.

Stedman-Bryce claimed that the cost of the Scottish Parliament was “almost £100,000,000 per year”.

The operating costs of the Scottish Parliament include staffing and MSP salaries, expenses and other administrative costs. The latest figures for 2017-18 show operating costs of £98.1m, up from £95.6m in 2016-17.

To put that figure into context, the UK Parliament including the Commons, the Lords and associated bodies, cost a combined £552m in 2017/18, according to data analysis published by the Institute for Government.

The Scottish Parliament’s annual running cost was similar to that of the House of Lords, which cost £98.9m in 2017-18.

Stedman-Bryce’s tweet ends with the contention that “many believe this money could be used to develop Scotland & the UK rather than divide it”. The tweet then ended with a poll on whether Holyrood should be closed.

There has been some polling on how Scotland should be governed which includes an option of abolishing the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Social Attitudes survey asked people how they thought Scotland should be governed up to 2015. Given the option of independence, devolution or no parliament only six per cent backed the removal of the Scottish Parliament.

A Panelbase poll for the Sunday Times in 2017 asked a similar question with the same three options and found that 19 per cent of respondents supported abolishing Holyrood. In a 2019 poll, this had increased to 22 per cent.

According to the polling, a significant majority of Scots support devolution or independence for Scotland, with the removal of Holyrood still the least popular of the three options.

Ferret Fact Service verdict: Mostly False

Louis Stedman-Bryce’s claim on the cost of the First Minister’s salary is misleading. It does not take into account the combined wage of the MSP and ministerial brief, and that the First Minister does not actually take the full entitlement. This means she earns around £19,000 less than the Prime Minister. His claim regarding the annual cost of the Scottish Parliament’s operation is correct, with a total expenditure of £98m in 2017-18. But polling suggests a minority of Scots are in favour of abolishing the Scottish Parliament.

This claim is Mostly False

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, working to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles. All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here. Want to suggest a fact check? Email us at factcheck@theferret.scot or join our Facebook group.

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