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Douglas Ross ‘football expense’ claims reviewed by parliamentary watchdog

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The SNP is calling for an investigation into the “substantial and serious” claims against the Scottish Tory leader.

By Jenness Mitchell, Scotland reporter @Jenster13


The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is “reviewing” reports Douglas Ross may have used Westminster expenses to travel in his role as a football linesman.

The SNP has also written to the independent public body and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards calling for an investigation into the “substantial and serious” claims.

It comes after Mr Ross announced on Monday he intends to step down as Scottish Tory leader following the 4 July election.

His resignation followed criticism over the deselection of David Duguid as a general election candidate as well as reports he used MP expenses to travel in his role as a football linesman.

Mr Ross – who will also step down as an MSP if he wins the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East Westminster seat – said the expenses claims were approved by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).

Mr Ross acknowledged that “any breaking of the rules with expenses is a serious breach”, but added he is “very comfortable” with the claims he has made.

Speaking to Sky News on Tuesday, Mr Ross said: “I am very confident that the claims I have made have been in line with my duties as a Member of Parliament and travelling to and from Westminster.

“But what I also said is I am very comfortable for that to be investigated.”

Mr Ross added he was “very happy” for the claims to be scrutinised by IPSA.

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A spokesperson from IPSA said: “We are currently reviewing the information that has appeared in a number of articles over the weekend.

“If there is evidence of any rules within the scheme being broken, we will work with the former MP to clarify the situation.

“If it is necessary, we are also able to refer matters to the compliance officer for IPSA for investigation.”

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Image:
Rishi Sunak and Douglas Ross during the general election campaign trail in Scotland last month. Pic: PA

The Sunday Mail reported that concerns had been raised over 28 parliamentary travel claims which may have been combined with Mr Ross’ work as a football linesman.

Under UK parliamentary rules, MPs can only claim travel from their home airport – which was either Inverness or Aberdeen when Mr Ross was MP for Moray.

They can also claim for “diverted” journeys but must supply detailed notes on the diversion.

Mr Ross said: “Sometimes I travel from Inverness, sometimes from Aberdeen, sometimes from Edinburgh, sometimes from Glasgow.

“But they are always in line with getting to and from the House of Commons where I do my duties as a Member of Parliament.”

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The newspaper reported that Mr Ross’ aides raised the alarm in November 2021 over expense claims which included a £58 parking fee at Inverness Airport in July 2018 while parliament was in recess.

When questioned by Sky News, Mr Ross explained it may be linked to a House of Commons visit by a Boys’ Brigade group from Buckie.

He added: “All of the claims are in line with my parliamentary duties.”

The Sunday Mail also reported £43 rail travel from Heathrow to central London was claimed the day after Mr Ross was a linesman in a match in Iceland.

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Claims also include that he expensed a flight from London to Glasgow and £109 parking.

On 1 November 2020 it is alleged he claimed £48.99 for parking the day he refereed a Celtic game.

Mr Ross previously said it was “not possible” to go from London to a football game as he would not have had his referee kit with him.

When questioned on Tuesday, he refused to be drawn in on whether he would pull out of the election contest if IPSA finds he has broken the rules.

Mr Ross added: “I’m going to wait to hear from the independent body and answer any questions, if they have any questions.”


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Keith Brown MSP has written to IPSA and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, calling for a probe on the “substantial and serious allegation”.

The depute leader of the SNP added: “If these allegations were fully substantiated, it would mean that Mr Ross has been abusing his public funded Westminster expenses to unfairly fund his receipt of another, separate salary.

“It would amount to another Westminster expenses scandal carried out by the current leader of the Scottish Tory Party.

“Given the seriousness of this matter, it is in the public interest for these allegations to be investigated immediately.

“The need for that swift investigation is also required because of the fact that Mr Ross is now seeking re-election to Westminster, due to his last-minute decision to displace his colleague David Duguid.

“Voters in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East have the right to know if Douglas Ross has blatantly abused publicly paid expenses over the last number of years.”

The SNP is no stranger to expenses scandals itself.

MSP Michael Matheson is currently serving a suspension for breaching the code of conduct over his £11,000 iPad data roaming bill.

Colleague Mr Brown previously defended the former Scottish health secretary, saying he was “somebody of integrity and honesty”.

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