Sixty four peers living in Scotland shared a payout of £1.83m from tax payers in just one year, The Ferret can reveal.
The three most expensive Lords were all Liberal Democrats. They were the only Scottish peers to receive more than £50,000 each in one year.
On average, peers claimed £28,528 each, or £346.38 for each day worked. Each person typically signed in to the House of Lords for 78 days in the last 12 month period for which records are available, August 2014 to July 2015. The most active peer, Lord Purvis, attended for 128 days.
Collectively, peers spent £287,896 on air travel between Scotland and London, a figure described as “disappointing” and “excessive” by critics.
They also spent £28,776 on taxis, parking and bridge tolls.
The records show that there are significant variations among the sums claimed and the amount of time different peers devote to House of Lords business.
The most expensive peers living in Scotland.
Three Liberal Democrats top the table of allowance claims.
Former Deputy First Minister of Scotland Lord Stephen is the most expensive peer living in Scotland. He claimed £56,274 in 12 months. He is the Liberal Democrat principal spokesperson on Scotland in the House of Lords.
Lord Stephen is also among the most active Lords, having attended on 126 days.
He has financial interests in a number of renewable energy firms active in Scotland and cites an interest in ‘Energy and the Environment’ on his parliamentary web page.
In 2012, Lord Stephen ran into criticism after he made £110,000 from selling a home he bought in Edinburgh. Whilst he was an MSP, he claimed around £70,000 towards mortgage payments and the other maintenance costs of the home through expense claims to the Scottish Parliament.
In 2013, he was forced to issue an apology after the Privileges and Conduct Committee found that he had omitted to declare some directorships and shareholdings in the Register of Interests.
Lord Steel of Aikwood was the second most expensive peer resident in Scotland. He claimed £52,769 in a year and was the only Scottish peer to claim more than £20,000 for travel between his home and London. He lives in the Scottish Borders.
Before entering the House of Lords he was the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament for four years. Prior to this he was a Member of Parliament at Westminster from 1965 to 1997.
Another Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Purvis of Tweed, was the third most expensive peer. He claimed £52,241.
During this period, he acted as the Liberal Democrat principal spokesperson for energy and climate change in the House of Lords for one month.
A former Borders MSP, he claimed £9,126 worth of air fares for travelling between his home in the Borders and London.
Lord Purvis is also the most active peer resident in Scotland. He attended the House of Lords on 128 days, and according to the website Public Whip, participated in 87.8% of votes.
Although no other peers resident in Scotland claimed more than £50,000, the most expensive Scottish Labour peer was Lord Foulkes, who claimed £49,943.
The former MP, MSP, and Hearts of Midlothian Football Club chairman, is currently also the Honorary Treasurer of a campaign group that brings “legislators together to combat climate change,” called Climate Parliament.
He spent £11,951 on air travel between Edinburgh and London in twelve months.
At the other end of the scale, former Scottish Conservative Leader Baroness Goldie took no payment for the seven days that she spent in the House of Lords.
There is no one measure that encapsulates all the activities peers may undertake. However, the chart below shows that there is a clear relationship between the amount that peers living in Scotland claimed in allowances and the number of days that they attended at the House of Lords.
Note: *indicates peer joined the House of Lords, was remunerated as a minister, retired or moved address during the period. Data on the activity of the peers should not necessarily be taken to indicate the quality of the work undertaken.”Voting rate” data is from Public Whip, and is calculated on a different time period to the other figures.
Costs per day
Two hereditary peers living in Scotland came out as the most expensive to the tax payer, if their claims are adjusted to take account of how many days they each spent in the House of Lords.
Cross-bencher the Earl of Stair claimed the equivalent of £759 for each of the 13 days he spent in the House of Lords over 12 months.
The peer, who owns land in Dumfries and Galloway and the Stranraer & Wigtownshire Free Press, claimed £6873 in travel expenses. He is a member of one committee in the House of Lords; the Refreshment Committee.
Another hereditary peer, the Conservative Earl of Dundee, claimed the equivalent of £510 for each of the 97 days he attended the House of Lords. He lives in Birkhill Castle and owns forestry, farmland and residential property in Fife and Angus.
Tax free allowances
Peers are entitled to claim a variety of allowances and expenses in the course of their work. They can claim up to £300 per day for attending the House of Lords, tax free. They can also claim an allowance for undertaking work outside the House of Lords.
In addition, they can claim travel expenses for business class travel between their registered address and the House of Lords and they can claim further travel expenses for their spouse and family to travel to Westminster six times per year.
Peers can opt to receive a loan of two computers and a PDA from parliamentary authorities as well.
Kirsty Blackman, MP for Aberdeen North and the SNP’s shadow spokesperson on the House of Lords, said: “People may well be astonished to learn that the £300 a day peers get for signing in is not subject to income tax,” and described the House of Lords as “nothing more or less than an affront to democracy”.
“The SNP has never taken seats in the House of Lords. It is now no more than a chamber of cronies – hangers on and people with big cheque books who pay their political bosses to get a seat guaranteed for life. They face no democratic accountability.”
Blackman reserved particular criticism for the remaining hereditary peers.
“There’s something repulsive about the thought that, in addition to the party donors, there are people sitting in the House of Lords making law because their ancestors owned land,” she said.
An analysis of an earlier set of expenses claims for the Sunday Post found that Scottish peers had claimed £1.6m in expenses in one year.
Although it may not be possible to directly compare both analyses, the more recent figures presented here suggest that the Scottish peers expenses bill is increasing.
The amount of public funds being spent on supporting air travel from Scotland to London is quite distressing. Colin Howden, Transform Scotland
Colin Howden, director of sustainable transport campaign group Transform Scotland, called for peers to show more leadership on their travel choices, and said they should cut their “excessive” use of heavily polluting and expensive air travel.
He said: “Rail travel should be the first option for business travel from central Scotland to London.
“Compared to flying, it provides a productive working environment, is generally less expensive, and has a much lower environmental impact.
“We need leadership from politicians in cutting climate emissions, and in particular from aviation, the most polluting form of transport. So the amount of public funds being spent on supporting air travel from Scotland to London is quite distressing.
“Lord Purvis is setting an especially poor example. It is untenable to present the case for emission reduction, as he has done in the Lords, while at the same time presenting the public with a large bill for his excessive levels of air travel.”
But a spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats rejected criticism of peers as hypocritical.
The Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords have delivered critical votes to defeat Conservative plans for tax credit cuts, where the SNP failed in the Commons. Liberal Democrats
They said: “The SNP attacked some peers before Christmas for poor attendance and now they are attacking others for proper attendance to hold the government to account.
“The Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords have delivered critical votes to defeat Conservative plans for tax credit cuts, where the SNP failed in the Commons, and introduced much needed reforms to the House of Lords.
“As working members of the UK Parliament from Scotland they have to travel up and down the country on a regular basis, frequently on the same flights as SNP MPs.
“What seems to be outrageously hypocritical of the SNP is that they have plans to reduce the tax on such flights by slashing Air Passenger Duty to encourage more people to fly.”
Commenting on his expense claims, cross-bench peer The Earl of Stair said: “All my travel claims are approved as fit for purpose by the finance authorities in the House of Lords.”
A Labour Lords spokesperson agreed that: “Expenses costs should always be kept as low as possible.
They added: “We support House of Lords reform but within the current system it is Labour Peers are who are doing the valuable job of holding the Government to account on everything from tax credit changes and green energy to devolution proposals within the Scotland Bill.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives also rejected claims that their peers had chosen to fly over more environmentally friendly forms of transport too often.
He said: “Air links between Scotland and London are vital for businesses and the economy. Rail links are important too, but deliberately avoiding air travel would be nothing but a political stunt.”
You can use the table below to sort the data according to political party, voting rate, or total expenses claimed.
|Name||Affiliation||Voting rate (%)||Expenses received|
|Lord Stephen||Liberal Democrat||53||£56273.92|
|Lord Steel of Aikwood||Liberal Democrat||38||£52769.18|
|Lord Purvis of Tweed||Liberal Democrat||88||£52240.81|
|Lord Foulkes of Cumnock||Labour||66||£49942.55|
|Lord McFall of Alcluith||Labour||78||£47830.07|
|Baroness Adams of Craigielea||Labour||64||£47031.66|
|Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale||Labour||48||£46414.62|
|Earl of Dundee||Conservative||36||£46280.90|
|Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan||Labour||68||£46200.62|
|Earl of Glasgow||Liberal Democrat||47||£44277.30|
|Lord Gordon of Strathblane||Labour||63||£42393.72|
|Lord Forsyth of Drumlean||Conservative||37||£42071.50|
|Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale||Labour||71||£41749.67|
|Lord Maclennan of Rogart||Liberal Democrat||46||£41472.94|
|Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke||Labour||67||£40743.15|
|Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope||Liberal Democrat||69||£39792.65|
|Lord MacKenzie of Culkein||Labour||78||£39421.13|
|Baroness Smith of Gilmorehill||Labour||25||£37624.85|
|Lord Selkirk of Douglas||Conservative||28||£37546.85|
|Lord Hope of Craighead||Cross-bencher||3||£37319.61|
|Baroness Linklater of Butterstone||Liberal Democrat||40||£36116.90|
|Lord Lang of Monkton||Conservative||25||£35137.17|
|Lord Pearson of Rannoch||UKIP||20||£27434.08|
|Earl of Lindsay||Conservative||31||£24290.10|
|Lord Sutherland of Houndwood||Cross-bencher||19||£24193.71|
|Lord Robertson of Port Ellen||Labour||48||£21039.37|
|Lord Wilson of Tillyorn||Cross-bencher||13||£19878.34|
|Lord Selkirk of Douglas||Conservative||28||£19640.08|
|Lord Wallace of Tankerness*||Liberal Democrat||73||£17606.00|
|Lord Watson of Invergowrie*||Labour||33||£17400.00|
|Lord Irvine of Lairg*||Labour||55||£16800.00|
|Duke of Montrose||Conservative||59||£16528.65|
|Earl of Kinnoull*||Cross-bencher||25||£14592.91|
|Lord Sanderson of Bowden||Conservative||20||£14402.13|
|Lord Mackay of Clashfern||Conservative||27||£14311.25|
|Lord Mackay of Drumadoon||Cross-bencher||2||£12502.24|
|Lord Martin of Springburn||Cross-bencher||52||£11803.22|
|Earl of Mar and Kellie||Liberal Democrat||53||£10315.10|
|Earl of Stair||Cross-bencher||8||£9873.43|
|Lord Macfarlane of Bearsden||Conservative||7||£8201.94|
|Earl of Caithness*||Conservative||47||£1356.00|
|Lord Cameron of Lochbroom||Cross-bencher||4||£483.75|
|Lord Browne of Ladyton||Labour||64||£300.00|
|Lord Smith of Kelvin||Cross-bencher||2||£0.00|
Who are the Scottish peers?
The peers who live in Scotland make up 7.8% of the 822 active UK peers. There are Liberal Democrat, Labour, Conservatives and UKIP peers among the active Scottish peers. There are also non-aligned ‘cross-bencher‘ peers.
There are no SNP peers on account of the party’s long-standing opposition to the House of Lords.
Twelve of the 64 active peers resident in Scotland are hereditary peers. Eight of the hereditary peers support the Conservative party, three are cross-benchers, and one is a Liberal Democrat.
Whilst peers do not formally represent a constituency or particular area of the county, many of the peers who live in Scotland also participate in House of Lords activities related to Scotland.
Most Scottish peers also have links to other Scottish institutions, as well as financial interests in businesses or property in Scotland.
Those defined as peers living in Scotland for this analysis are ones that gave a registered location in Scotland over the last 12 months for which published records are available. At the time the analysis was conducted, the period was August 2014 – July 2015.
Peers do not have to register any location with the authorities, so there may be other peers resident in Scotland who are not included in this analysis. Similarly, Scottish peers who joined the house after July 2015, such as Lord Campbell of Pittenweem, are not listed here.
Caveats aside, our analysis identified a list of 69 peers resident in Scotland. Five of these peers were excluded on the basis that they did not attend the House of Lords or claim any money during the 12 months period analysed.
This left 64 “active peers” who had registered as living in Scotland at some point during the 12 months.
Of these active peers resident in Scotland, eight should be considered as “partial” claims as they either retired from the Lords, joined the Lords, moved out of Scotland, or received a salary as a government minister for part of the year. These partial claims were still included.
Once the financial analysis was concluded, the results were supplemented with data from other official sources and TheyWorkForYou.com
Although we have included some data on the activity of the peers, these should not necessarily be taken to indicate the quality of the work undertaken by a specific peer.
Get the data
Ferret subscribers can download all the data we used in this story in one CSV file.