The two-horse race in Ettrick, Roxburgh & Berwickshire has taken on a different perspective after Tory candidate John Lamont trounced his SNP opponent Paul Wheelhouse in two separate counts.
The first calculation, which covers the last five years, shows Lamont made 2,367 separate claims for expenses as the constituency's MSP against only 870 by Wheelhouse who served as a list MSP covering the vast South of Scotland territory which stretches from Eyemouth in the east to Stranraer in the west.
Lamont's second stunning victory came when the value of the two politicians' claims were assessed by enumerators for monetary value. The result? Lamont (Con.) £152,838; Wheelhouse (SNP) £77,760.
Detailed analysis carried out by an irate taxpayer shows Lamont outscored Wheelhouse in terms of claims in each financial year from 2011/12 to 2015/16, and at the same time must have kept a couple of Holyrood bean counters fully occupied in scrutinising, approving, then signing off his allowances.
Lamont also thrashed Wheelhouse in the money stakes in each of the five years covered by our research, defeating the SNP hopeful by more than £2 to £1.
An economics expert said: "If it's value for money you're after at the forthcoming election, then it's no contest.
"I thought there might be something unique about Ettrick Roxburgh & Berwickshire in terms of the financial resources required to maintain the local MSP. So I looked at the claims of the serving SNP member in the neighbouring seat of Midlothian South, Tweeddale & Lauderdale [Christine Grahame], an electoral division with similar characteristics to Mr Lamont's constituency.
"But she only submitted 1,076 claims over the five years with a total value of £86,031. It's virtually a case of Buy One Get One Free (BOGOF) with the SNP compared to the cost of 'running' a Tory MSP".
A previous article published on this site concentrated on the respective allowances claims of the candidates during the first nine months of 2015/16 when Lamont defeated Wheelhouse by 369 invoices to 107, claiming £23,234 against £8,674. So our angry taxpayer thought it might be worth looking at some of the individual claims in greater detail.
Perhaps the one that stands out is the form he must have filled in to claim £1 (yes, one pound folks) to recover the cash he splashed out on a single copy of The Berwickshire News on April 27th last year.
That particular claim was accompanied by two others valued at £2 each for four copies of the Eskdale & Liddesdale Advertiser and four copies of the Selkirk Advertiser. Obviously a dedicated supporter of the local Press is Mr. Lamont [at taxpayers’ expense, of course]! A £2.94 taxi ride from Parliament to St. Andrew’s Square features in another of the claims listed.
Full details of all allowances claimed by our Parliamentarians are available on the legislature’s website. Good hunting!
In the meantime here's that Ettrick, Roxburgh & Berwickshire result in full J.L. = John Lamont; P.W.= Paul Wheelhouse.
YEAR J.L CLAIMS J.L. CASH P.W. CLAIMS P.W. CASH
2011/12 230 £28,688 84 £11,431
2012/13 372 £30,385 211 £22,384
2013/14 716 £33,676 269 £18,368
2014/15 680 £36,855 199 £16,903
2015/16 369 £23,234 107 £8,674
TOTALS: 2,367 £152,838 870 £77,760
CON.MAJ 1,497 and £74,078