The cash behind our MPs: All the foreign trips, freebies and donations given to 12 of Scotland’s highest-profile MPs

Some of Scotland’s highest-profile MPs have received hundreds of thousands in outside income, free trips to foreign countries and gifts from corporate donors while representing their constituents.

Saturday, 24th October 2020, 11:21 am

Updated Saturday, 24th October 2020, 12:38 pm
Mhairi Black MP speaks at an event in Glasgow.
Mhairi Black MP speaks at an event in Glasgow.

Scotland’s 59 MPs are a mixed bunch from a broad church of political views, but they all provide a route for those with money and power to influence politics at a national level.

We are taking a look at 12 of the most high-profile MPs elected to the House of Commons in the 2019 general election who will represent Scotland for the next four-and-a-half years.

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We will examine the foreign trips, freebies, outside work and donations to see who is contributing the people you elect to represent you.

Assistant referee and Leader of the Scottish Conservative party Douglas Ross warms up prior to the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match between Rangers FC and St. Mirren

We are also beginning this exercise from 2010, rather than the earliest date for some of those elected, 2001.

For the purposes of this article, we are not including anything which involved a fee being donated directly to charity that can include fees for newspaper columns and other work.

Many of the foreign trips are part of the workings of All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs), which are groups of MPs who work together around one issue or country.

The full list of all 59 MPs can be found on The Scotsman’s website.

Joanna Cherry, Scottish National Party (SNP) MP arrives at the Supreme court in central London o

Mhairi Black – Paisley and Renfrewshire South

One of the most high-profile MPs of the SNP’s 2015 intake at Westminster, Ms Black has served as the shadow secretary of state for Scotland since January 2020.

She was the youngest ever MP to be elected to the House of Commons at the age of 20 years and 237 days old since 1832, elected with a majority of nearly 25 per cent of the vote.

David Duguid mp

• Visit to Kenya courtesy of ONE, an anti-poverty campaign group in September 2015 to see sites funded by UK international development funds. The trip was worth £2,851.

• Free tickets for Glastonbury 2016 where she was a speaker and took part in a debate. Worth £446.

Kenny MacAskill SNPGeneral Election 2019 – East Lothain Count

• £5,000 from Flagship Media Group Ltd, owned by Derek Carstairs who ran a newspaper group in Belfast.

Ian Blackford – Ross, Skye and Lochaber

Another SNP MP voted in on the back of the 2015 nationalist surge, Mr Blackford succeeded popular Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy, winning the seat by nearly 10,000 votes.

Following Angus Robertson losing his seat in 2017, Mr Blackford has been leader of the SNP in the House of Commons.

• He is also the chairman of Golden Charter Trust Ltd, which operates funeral payment plans for individuals and safeguards the money from those payment plans.

Alyn Smith, SNP Candidate for Stirling meets with voters on the streets of Stirling

The work for the trust, where he was initially trustee and now chairman, sees him paid thousands of pounds a month.

In 2015, he was paid £4,146 quarterly for eight hours’ work as an independent trustee, plus £1,429 per day for any additional work.

Later in 2015 he became chairman, with his pay rising to £3,000 per month for eight hours of work per quarter, plus £1,500 per extra day.

He was paid an additional £1,630 for a phone call and meeting lasting six hours in November of that year, paid £4,290 for three days’ work across three months.

His salary has since been raised to £3,247 per month in April 2020, with his day rate upped to £1,575.

Overall, since he has been in parliament, Mr Blackford has earned more than £170,000 in the role.

• Earned £60,000 as chairman of Commsworld Plc, a telecoms company for 32 hours of work per year at £1,000 per month. In 2019, the Scottish Conservatives suggested Mr Blackford was due to receive a large windfall from the sale of the company.

• Owns First Seer Ltd, a croft business.

• He has an investment portfolio managed by Brooks MacDonald Plc.

• Shareholder in Commsworld and Corbion NV. the latter until November 2015.

• Owned croft plus two holiday rental properties (used as rental properties until September 2015), which were sold in November 2016 on Skye.

• Owned a house in Lanark (sold in 2019).

• Bought a house in Skye in November 2016.

• Non-executive director of New City Agenda thinktank from March 2017 (unpaid).

• Tickets for hospitality at Scotland v England at Murrayfield in February 2018, paid for by Energy Law Unlimited, a specialist business consultancy and law firm specialising in utility infrastructure and energy matters. The tickets were worth £1,360.

• £3,000 donation from David Craigen in both June 2015 and June 2017 following general elections.

Alastair Carmichael – Orkney and Shetland

The Liberal Democrat politician was elected to the House of Commons to represent Orkney and Shetland for the first time in 2001.

Since then, he has won every election held on the islands comfortably, winning by 51.3 per cent in 2010, holding on to his seat by 3.4 points in 2015, and retaining it in 2019 with a majority of just over 2,500.

Under the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition from 2010, he served as the Secretary of State for Scotland under David Cameron and Nick Clegg between October 2013 and May 2015.

He is now the Lib Dem spokesman for home affairs, Northern Ireland, and the Cabinet Office.

For work outside Parliament, he received;

• £750 for flights and accommodation for appearing on Question Time in October 2010.

Foreign trips have included;

• Flown to Rotterdam and Den Helder by gas and oil logistics company, Petersen SBS Ltd (now Petersen) costing £1,092 in August 2012. The trip was described as being “relevant to business opportunities in my constituency.

• Took part in a VSO political volunteer scheme to Cameroon in August 2013, a trip worth £5,090.

• Flown to Doha, Qatar, by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Qatar in February 2016 as part of a trip with the All-Party Parliamentary British-Qatar Group to discuss the preparations for the World Cup and labour conditions. The trip was worth £6,550 in flights, food, and accommodation.

• Another trip to Qatar as part of the same APPG in February 2017. This trip was worth £5,100 in flights, food, and accommodation.

• Trip to the West Bank and Israel in September 2017, as part of a ‘fact-finding visit’ organised by the Council for Arab-British Understanding and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), costing £1,260, paid for by MAP.

• In November 2018, he visited Kuwait as part of the APPG on Kuwait, paid for by the Kuwait National Assembly and worth £3,800.

• Visited to Japan, paid for by the Open Society Foundation – founded by George Soros – on the invitation of the Japanese Federal Bar Association, to meet with ministers and MPs to discuss the abolition of the death penalty. The trip was worth £1,985.

• In October 2019, he was flown to Dubai in a trip worth £4,400 by private equity firm C&C Alpha Group to participate and address a conference of C&C Alpha Group senior management.

• Visited Qatar again in February 2020 in an APPG visit to the country, paid for by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, to discuss the blockade on the country imposed by other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council such as the UAE and Bahrain. The trip was worth £3,425.

Financial support has included

• Two grants of £34,000 and £16,000 from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (not to be confused with the politically independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation) in January and March 2016 to help pay his £150,000 legal costs following a failed attempt by four constituents to unseat him as an MP following the 2015 election.

This was in relation to a leaked memo which suggested Nicola Sturgeon wanted a Conservative prime minister, later leaked to the press and authorised by Mr Carmichael.

• £2,000 from Jeremy Nelson in July 2017.

• £5,000 in July 2017 from millionaire online travel website businessman and creator of Ebookers, Dinesh Dhamija, who was also a Lib Dem MEP for London until Brexit.

• £5,000 from Radix think-tank founder and entrepreneur Joe Zammit-Lucia in July 2017, followed by another £5,000 donation in January 2020.

• £2,500 from Robert Laurence in January 2020.

• £10,000 from Sudhir Choudhrie in January 2020, an Indian businessman who has donated more than £1.5m to the Liberal Democrats. Him and his son Bhanu were also part of an investigation into Rolls-Royce by the Serious Fraud Office.

Joanna Cherry – Edinburgh South West

The firebrand MP was initially tipped to take on Ruth Davidson’s seat in Edinburgh Central at the Scottish Parliament before a rule change scuppered the potential for an internal fight between her and former leader of the SNP in the House of Commons Angus Robertson.

Elected in 2015, she was a highly regarded QC and led legal action around the five-week long prorogation of Parliament by Boris Johnson in 2019, a case she won at the Supreme Court, funded by Vince Dale.

In her time as an MP she has earned nearly £170,000 for legal work undertaken before she was elected.

In January 2019, she received £150 from The Herald for an article and £600 from ITV for appearing on University Challenge.

She is now shadow SNP spokesperson for home affairs and justice.

Foreign trips have included:

• In October 2016, a trip to West Bank and Israel as part of visit organised by Council for Arab-British Understanding and Human Appeal, paid for by Human Appeal. Worth: £1,350.

• In January 2017, a trip to France, paid for by Franco-British Colloque, to attend their 2017 Conference, worth £600. She went again in 2018, 2019 and 2020 at a cost of £777, £598 and £901 respectively.

• Another trip was to Barcelona in September 2017, paid for by Diplocat (Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia) to oversee the referendum vote in Catalonia as part of international delegation including APPG on Catalonia members. Worth: £890.

• In January 2019 she went to Cork to speak at an event at the Cork Chamber of Commerce, paid for by KPMG. Worth £415.

• In July 2017, she received paintings worth £23,000 for benefit of her and four other candidates, with local party receiving a 20% share. Paid for by Gerard Burns.

• In November 2017, she received tickets for DIVA Literary Festival, worth £370, paid for my DIVA Magazine/Twin Media Group Ltd.

In January 2020, she received a donation of £3,000 from Flagship Media Group, owned by Derek Carstairs.

David Duguid – Banff and Buchan

Elected in 2017, taking Alex Salmond’s former seat from Dr Eilidh Whiteford, Mr Duguid serves as a junior minister in the Scotland office for the Conservative government. In terms of outside income, he received £2,400 for four appearances as a temporary member of the MP4 rock band, made up of four current or former members of Parliament, on the Dave show Unspun, paid for by Avalon Productions.

He has registered no foreign trips, but has received thousands in donations. In July 2017, he received £7,500 from the Scottish Unionist Association Trust.After the general election in December 2019, he registered donations in January 2020 from Stalbury Trustees and Lord Philip Harris, worth £5,000 and £3,000 respectively. The Stalbury Trustees include the Marquess of Salisbury, a former leader of the Conservatives in the House of Lords, while Lord Harris is a businessman and long-time Tory donor.

Margaret Ferrier – Rutherglen and Hamilton West

The controversial MP, who was stripped of the SNP whip after it emerged she travelled to London and back while first awaiting the results of a Covid test and then following a positive result, was first elected in 2015 before losing to Labour’s Ged Killen in 2017. After winning back the seat in 2019, she now sits as an independent with her future as an MP in doubt.

Her only foreign trip, gift or outside income was during her first term as an MP. In February 2017, she travelled to the West Bank and Israel on a fact-finding mission paid for by Medical Aid for Palestinians. It was worth £1,390.

Alister Jack – Dumfries and Galloway

One of the Conservative’s gains from the SNP in the 2017 election, Mr Jack serves as the secretary of state for Scotland under Boris Johnson and previously acted as one of the government’s whips.

As arguably the most high profile of all of Scotland’s MPs, he has received thousands in donations since his election.

His outside income includes:

• Until his resignation in February 2019, he received £15,000 a year as non-executive chairman and director of Fulling Mill Ltd which manufactures products for recreational fishermen, a company he owns through his private investment company Atlantic Solway in which he owns a stake of more than 15 per cent.

He also owns agricultural land, two cottages and a salmon fishery in Dumfries and Galloway.

Other shareholdings included:

• More than 15 per cent stake and a director in Cantco Ltd which does Lloyds insurance underwriting.

• He also owns a stake of 15 per cent or more in Courance Farms, Edinburgh Self Storage Ltd. a fishing app company called Fishfigure Ltd and Mollin HEP Ltd which operates in hydro-electric power.

Mr Jack also had shareholdings worth more than £70,000 in:

• Hotspace Health Ltd; wellness studio until February 2019

• The industrial conglomerate Jardine Matheson Holdings until October 2017.

• Privet Capital Pyser LP, a supplier of precision optical and electro-optical equipment until September 2019.

• Zhongsheng Holdings, an automobile distributor until April 2018.

He still holds shareholdings worth more than £70,000 in:

• One Rebel Ltd, a fitness club.

• Privet Capital Aeromet LP a supplier of aluminium and magnesium castings.

• Three Christmas tree grower businesses, Rars Woodlands (2 and 3) Ltd.

• Thomas Murray Network Management Ltd.

Mr Jack has also received thousands in donations.

• In June 2017, he received £18,000 in total including donations of £3,000, £5,000, £5,000, and £5,000 from Sir Henry Keswick, P D R Landale, E P K Weatherall, and Stalbury Trustees.

The Stalbury Trustees include the Marquess of Salisbury, a former leader of the Conservatives in the House of Lords

• In May 2018, he received donations of £5,000, £6,000, £2,000, £2,000, £2,500, and £2,500 from James P Jack, John Cooper, Alasdair G Houston, Chippendale S Keswick, Mary Buckly, and Edward P K Weatherall

• In June 2018 he received a donation of £2,000 from Davd D Stevenson

• In March 2019, a donation of £2,000 from John Cooper

• In September 2019 a donation of £5,000 from James Jack

• In January 2020 following the 2019 General Election, he received donations of £5,000 each from Sir Henry Keswick, Chippendale Keswick, and Lady Sarah Keswick. Sir Henry, stood down from the board of his conglomerate Jardine Matheson in 2018, whose companies include the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group with hotels in several capital cities. The family is reportedly worth more than £6bn.

• Mr Jack also receive £5,000 from Simon Hodgson, £2,500 from James Stewart, £2,500 from Willam F Forbes, and a £6,000 donation from John Cooper.

• Premier League tickets for Chelsea match worth £450 in March 2020 paid for by the Premier League.

Kenny MacAskill – East Lothian

The former justice secretary under Alex Salmond in Holyrood was elected to Westminster for the first time in December 2019.

He is part of the party’s justice group and a member of the justice committee, and an ally of the former First Minister.

In outside income he has received:

• As a columnist for Scots Magazine, £250 in December 2019 and £220 per month since.

• £540 from Biteback Publishing for publishing a book

• £800 from The Scotsman in December 2019 and £200 a week onwards for his weekly column.

He has not registered any foreign trips, gifts, or donations.

David Mundell – Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale

The former secretary of state for Scotland under Theresa May and David Cameron was first elected to Westminster in 2005 where he served as shadow secretary of state for Scotland until 2010.

Since being sacked by Boris Johnson in that role, he has served on the public administration and constitutional affairs committee.

However, due to his high profile in his old job, he has received the most donations of any Scottish MP.

In outside income he also has a flat in Edinburgh which earns him rental income.

His foreign trips have included:

• In May 2009 a trip to Sierra Leone for research on Conservative Party Social Action Project. Flights and in-country costs were paid by Andrew Mitchell MP from registered donations made to him in his capacity as Shadow Secretary of State for International Development.

In free gifts he has received:

• In March 2009, a private flight from Humberside Airport to Glasgow on 7 March 2009 provided by Malcolm Scott of Dunalistair Estates Ltd

• In September 2009, £850 for hospitality at Carlton Club Political Dinner in London, paid for by Alexander Inglis and Son Ltd.

In donations, he has received since 2010 more than £91,000 in mostly quarterly donations from Singapore-based property mogul Brian Gillies through his companies Alchemist Estates Ltd, Stridewell Estates Ltd, and Kirklee Property Company (2).

Mr Mundell has also received £51,000 from private donor James Stewart since 2011.

He has also received the following donations:

• In November 2010 a donation of £5,000 from Garry Watts

• In December 2010 a donation of £5,000 from Carolyn Ward

• In September 2014 a £2,589 donation from Caledonian Colour Printers

• In December 2014, a £2,000 donation from Garry Watts

• In January 2015, £2,000 from Carolyn Ward

• In May 2015, £5,000 from Glenrath Farms Ltd

• In May 2017: £3,000 donation from Sir Henry Keswick. Sir Henry stood down from the board of his conglomerate Jardine Matheson in 2018 whose companies include the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group with hotels in several capital cities. The family is reportedly worth more than £6bn.

He also received £3,000 from Mary Coltman, £4,000 from Mr and Mrs David Reid, £3,000 from Vitol Services Ltd, £2,000 from Eric Holford, £5,000 from Sir John Campbell

• In January 2019, he received a £5,000 donation from Stewart Grieve

• In October 2019, another £3,500 donation from Sir Henry Keswick

• In January 2020 following the 2019 General Election he registered donations of £2,500 from David Stevensonm, £3,000 from Mary Coltman, £4,000 from Stewart Grieve, £2,000 from long-time Tory donor Lord Phillip Harris, and £9,995 from Glenrath Farms Ltd

Ian Murray – Edinburgh South

Labour’s only Scottish MP and shadow Scotland secretary came close to quitting the party, it was revealed earlier this year.

Mr Murray, who was elected in 2010 and has held on to his seat despite several attacks from the SNP, is the highest profile Labour politician in Scotland and is back in the frontline of politics following the resignation of Jeremy Corbyn.

His outside income includes:

• In June 2010, he earned £3,000 as part of event management services to Bath Festival Fringe which was paid to 100MPH Events Ltd

His foreign trips include:

• July 2011 he took part in a trip to Egypt and Gaza. Parliamentary delegation paid for by Council of European Palestinian Relations. It was worth: £1,492

• In November 2011 he took part in a ‘familiarisation visit’ to the Falkland Islands paid for by the Falkland Islands government worth £2,810

• In March 2013, he visited the United Arab Emirates. Paid for by the UAE government. Part of the trip as a member of the the UAE APPG in order to meet Government Ministers, Members of the Federal National Council and senior business figures together with British diplomats in order to build on the bilateral relationship and promote trade and investment ties. The trip was worth £3,500

• In August 2017, he was taken on a trip worth £5,282 to Taiwan, paid for by the government of the Republic of China. He was part of APPG Taiwan group travelling to discuss political, trade and cultural links between the United Kingdom and Taiwan.

In donations he has received:

• In May 2015, £2,000 from union USDAW, £2,000 from union Community, £1,863.25 from Unite and £2,000 from Glen Bramley

• In June 2017, a donation of £5,000 from Community Trade Union, £4,000 from USDAW and donations of £5,000 from Mary Hughes, £5,000 from Lord Oakeshott, and £2,000 from Ghill Donald.

• In December 2019 he received a £2,000 donation from GMB, £10,000 from Lord Oakeshott, £5,000 from USDAW, £7,000 from Community Union, and £5,000 from Lord William Haughie.

• Following the 2019 General Election he registered donations of £5,000 from Gordon Dalyell, £10,000 from Lord Oakeshott, £3,000 from Baroness Meta Ramsay, £6,000 from Community Union, £3,000 from Jonathan Wild, and £2,000 from Fiona Mactaggart all of which went towards his campaign to become Labour’s deputy leader.

• In February 2020 he received an extra £5,000 from Gordon Dalyell, £5,000 from Mark Bathgate, and £5,000 from Lord William Haughie for his deputy leadership campaign.

• In September 2012, a researcher paid for by the union GMB. Worth £5,000

• In December 2014, PWC paid for, via the Labour Party, a research assistant to support him in his role at the Independent Export Commission from 10 November 14 to 1 May 2015. It was worth £45,000

• In January 2018 he received tickets worth £1,075 and hospitality to attend the National Television Awards, paid for by ITV.

• In February 2018: RBS paid for tickets to Scotland v England worth £136

• In March 2018, Charlotte Street Partners paid for tickets to Motherwell v Hearts worth £200

• In December 2018, tickets for the X Factor final, paid for by ITV worth £450.

The new leader of the Scottish Conservatives, replacing the struggling Jackson Carlaw in August, is a part-time referee and linesman and unseated the then-SNP leader in Westminster Angus Robertson.

It is looking likely both will face off against each other again in Holyrood following the 2021 elections as both are set to stand and will probably win their respective seats.

However, in terms of his finances pre-2021, it can be revealed Mr Ross has earned a staggering £56,000 from refereeing since his election in 2017.

He has officiated games involving giants such as Bayern Munich, as well as many high profile matches in the Scottish Premier League.

Other than his trips for footballing reasons, he has also travelled to Israel and the West Bank while an MSP in August 2016, in a trip worth £2,000 and paid for by the Conservative Friends of Israel.

His donations have included:

• In July 2017, donations of £5,000, £7,500, £10,000, and £5,000 from Alasdair Laing, Scottish Unionist Association Trust, Stalbury Trustees, and John Martin respectively.

• In January 2020: Donations of £5,000, £5,000, £2,500, £5,000, £5,000 from John S Martin, Alasdair N Laing, Carlton CB Politc, Stalbury Trustees, and the Scottish Unionist Association Trust.

• In July 2020, a donation of £20,000 from Alasdair Locke, received via John Lamont (campaign manager) for his Scottish Conservatives leadership campaign.

The former MEP stood for election in the 2019 General Election after the UK left the EU and won his seat, previously an extremely tight marginal seat with the Conservatives who won by just 148 seats in 2017, by more than 9,000 votes.

He has been subject of a row about reducing the number of equalities groups represented on the SNP’s national executive committee, and now serves as the SNP’s spokesperson on the foreign office.

His only registered trip, gift or donation was a trip to Washington DC in February 2020, paid for by the Woodrow Wilson internation Centre for Scholars for participation in Defeating Disinformation workshop. The trip was worth £1,026.

This data has been compiled based on information publicly accessible on the House of Commons’ Register of Members’ Financial Interests available here.

Because of this, we have not approached any individual MP for comment on this story.

Ian Murray speaks at event in Glasgow.
Conservative MP David Mundell arrives in Downing street in central London on October 30, 2019
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, London.
Alister Jack, arrives at Downing Street on September 8, 2020 in London, England
Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (R) poses with SNP candidate for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, Margaret Ferrier.

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