Angus Robertson has defended a “secret” decision by the SNP which saw him paid £33,000 in public money on top of his MPs’ salary while SNP Westminster leader.
The-now Scottish constitution secretary was given the top-up after the 2015 General Election when the SNP became the third-largest party in the House of Commons, winning 56 out of 59 Scottish seats.
At the time Robertson didn’t publish the funds, meaning the public and many in his own party were not aware of the raise.
When it emerged two weeks ago, Scottish Labour said it showed how party bosses allowed secrecy to “fester” in the SNP.
But Robertson, the former Moray MP who now sits as an MSP and Scottish Government minister, defended the wage rise.
He told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “Firstly, on the issue of opposition party leaders, the leader of the Labour Party receives a salary commensurate with him being the leader of the main opposition party.
“And when the SNP became the third party in the House of Commons, the executive of the SNP group decided that they were going to do likewise.
“The transparency rules around that were subject to the advice by the House of Commons authorities, and those were followed in full.”
There are no suggestions Robertson – who had been SNP Westminster leader since 2007 – broke any rules.
Asked why he didn’t tell his fellow SNP MPs at the time, he replied: “I’m not in the habit of discussing my pay with other colleagues.
“And I certainly don’t think that one should be creating an impression of any impropriety when there was absolutely none.”
Robertson lost his Westminster seat at the 2017 General Election. His successors – Ian Blackford and Stephen Flynn – choose not to receive the extra cash.
The money is based on the top-up given to UK junior ministers.
It is given every year to the official leader of the opposition – the person who leads the second-largest party in the House of Commons.
In 2015/16 this was £33,207 on top of an MP’s £74,000 salary.
Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy criticised the SNP for keeping the money “secret”.
He said: “Angus Robertson has a total brass-neck claiming the SNP followed transparency rules over this extra money he received while their leader at Westminster.
“This payment was only revealed last month – years after it was paid to him.
“Not only were the public kept in the dark, but senior SNP figures were also completely unaware of the then Moray MP enjoying this generous second salary.
“This payment was yet another example of how the SNP are totally addicted to secrecy and Angus Robertson failed to be upfront when challenged about it.
“It is up to him – and the SNP as a whole – to finally come clean about why this payment was kept secret for so long.”
Scottish Labour’s deputy leader Jackie Baillie said “The SNP’s utter contempt for transparency is showing again.
“Angus Robertson’s attempts to defend this bizarre episode shows how deep the culture of secrecy runs in the SNP.”
An SNP spokesperson said: “Employment issues relating to the Westminster SNP Leader, Chief Whip and group staff are a matter decided by the group executive.
“Senior leadership remuneration followed the SNP becoming the third party at Westminster and was pegged below comparative UK government and opposition positions.”