During the expenses scandal at Westminster, the LibDems and SNP were keen to present a pious public image of themselves. As the former now are discovering, one reason for this was their then lack of any importance in the political landscape.
Despite representing Central Scotland, SNP Housing Minister, Alex Neil used Holyrood rules to purchase an overnight home in Edinburgh when he was elected in 1999. Paying only an initial deposit of £4,720 from his own pocket, mortgage repayments (not counting other sundries) were paid for by Holyrood. The Sunday Herald reports that he sold the property earlier this month for £200,000: thus securing a pre-tax profit of over £100,000, and escaping an increase on CGT imposed by the emergency budget.
Perhaps unaccustomed to justifying himself or his Party to hoi polloi, when asked he quipped if MSPs were expected to live in caravans. No, Alex, but nor are they expected to make six figure profits on properties which are, in short, grace and favour residences whilst they are public servants.
Elsewhere in the Sunday Herald article, Neil was at pains to state:
[…] he had bought the flat “in good faith” and had spent £50,000 of his own money on it through CGT, stamp duty, legal fees, furniture and repairs.
Maybe he sold the flat fully furnished, but I doubt it. Considering that utility bills and council tax and television licenses were also paid for, the remainder strikes as a very good deal for the cost of living which everyone else has to pay for from their own pockets: his response that criticism is akin to demanding he live in a hovel must rank up there with Gordon Brown’s belief that, as a father of two young boys with a wife who also worked, he was entitled to a cleaner which millions went without.
As the article also states, such behaviour has been seen across the floor in Holyrood; and another SNP Government minister, Adam Ingram is seeking to do similar.
But, it is all within the rules.