Ross travel expenses allegations 'significant' - Swinney

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross is facing "significant and serious" allegations that he used Westminster expenses to travel in his role as a football linesman, the first minister has said.

John Swinney said reports in the Sunday Mail, if accurate, would amount to a "potential misuse of public funds".

The newspaper said advisers to Mr Ross raised concerns over 28 parliamentary travel claims which may have been combined with his work as a linesman.

The Scottish Conservative leader said the expenses were approved by independent parliamentary body IPSA and he would have "no issue" with the expenses being examined for a second time.

But Mr Swinney called on Mr Ross to "set out" all the available information regarding the matter.

Under UK parliamentary rules, MPs can only claim travel from their home airport.

In Mr Ross' case this was either Inverness or Aberdeen when he was MP for Moray.

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

According to the Sunday Mail, in November 2021 Mr Ross' aides raised concerns over a claim which included a £58 parking fee at Inverness Airport.

It was dated July 2018 while parliament was in recess.

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

Speaking in Paisley, Mr Swinney said: "Douglas Ross is normally the first to be out of the stables demanding that everybody sets out all of the information, so I think Mr Ross should do that right away because the story raises very significant and serious issues of the potential misuse of public funds."

'Welcome scrunity'

Further claims against Mr Ross also include that he claimed a flight from London to Glasgow on expenses and £109 parking.

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

Responding to the article, Mr Ross said that he had only ever claimed expenses relating to his role as an MP.

He also maintained they had been agreed by the independent parliamentary body that oversees expenses.

Mr Ross added that he would have no issue with them being scrutinised again.

The Scottish Conservative leader 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.

On Sunday Scottish Conservatives deputy leader Meghan Gallacher told BBC Scotland News the party leader would welcome any further scrutiny.

She said: "He has been clear in terms of this matter being one that occurred a few years ago, but also, in terms of saying that should there be any further investigation into these matters that he would welcome that.

"These have been approved by the parliamentary IPSA body."

David Duguid, the former MP for Banff and Buchan
[PA Media]

The claims follow the ongoing row over the essential de-selection of Conservative candidate David Duguid.

Mr Ross is now contesting the Aberdeenshire North & Moray East seat instead of Mr Duguid, who has been in hospital due to ill-health.

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy previously told BBC Scotland News that Mr Ross was not directly involved in a “unanimous” decision taken by the party board on Mr Duguid’s candidacy, despite the leader sitting on the board himself.

Mr Hoy said Mr Ross had not taken part in any meetings regarding the matter.

On Sunday Ms Gallacher said the party was "focused" on the election and described the decision to deselect Mr Duguid as a "difficult set of circumstances."

She added the party had only 24 hours to find a candidate once the decision was taken regarding Mr Duguid's candidacy

But Mr Swinney has accused the Conservatives of a "shameful course of action."

And he said the full minutes of the meeting should be presented to the public.