Parliamentary watchdog 'reviewing' Douglas Ross football expense claims

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority says it will work with Ross to clarify the situation 'if there is evidence of any rules being broken'.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) says it is “reviewing” claims that Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross used Westminster expenses to travel in his role as football linesman.

Reports in the Sunday Mail at the weekend claim Ross’ advisers flagged concerns over 28 parliamentary travel claims that may have been combined with his football work.

IPSA has now confirmed it is scrutinising the allegations made by the newspaper.

A spokesperson 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.”

The Sunday Mail stated that Ross’ aides raised alarm in November 2021 over expense claims which included a £58 parking fee at Inverness Airport in July 2018 while Parliament was in recess.

It also stated £43 rail travel from Heathrow to central London was claimed the day after Ross was a linesman in a match in Iceland.

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

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

He said: “I have only ever claimed expenses related to my role as a member of Parliament and the costs of getting me to and from Westminster.

“These have all been agreed by IPSA, the independent body that oversees MPs’ expenses, but I would have no issue with them being scrutinised again.”

But First Minister John Swinney said Ross has “serious” questions to answer over the issue. He described the claims as “very significant” and demanded Ross explains the expenses in detail.

While Swinney said he did not want to “jump to conclusions”, he told journalists in Paisley on Sunday: “The report in the Sunday Mail this morning about Douglas Ross allegedly using public funds to support his career as a football linesman raises very significant issues and I think Douglas Ross has got to set out all of the information about this particular issue.

“I’m not going to jump to conclusions about people. I don’t know the details about this, but (this) raises very, very significant concerns.

“Douglas Ross is normally the first to be out of the stables demanding that everybody sets out all of the information, so I think Ross should do that right away because the story raises very significant and serious issues of the potential misuse of public funds.”

The SNP has written to IPSA asking them to investigate Ross urgently.

SNP deputy leader Keith Brown said: “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.”

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

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

The incident comes after Ross confirmed he is standing as a candidate in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East in the General Election, after previously ruling it out to focus on his Holyrood responsibilities.

He has come under fire for his handling of the issue after David Duguid was blocked from standing as the Scottish Tory candidate in the seat.

Duguid was taken to hospital in April, with party management taking the decision that he is “unable to stand” due to ill health – which Duguid has said is “simply incorrect”.

On Tuesday, Ross said sorry to Scottish Conservative voters as the last few days were “not good enough”, after he announced his intention to resign as party leader.

He admitted the last few days had been “very challenging” for his party but he had to listen to concerns from fellow Tory MSPs.

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code