Taxpayers have been saving hundreds of thousands of pounds on MSPs’ expenses for travel, hotels and accommodation during the pandemic.
Newly published figures show the total claims for the first half of 2020/21 have been slashed by almost 30% compared to last year, from £1.6 million to £1.13m.
Just £67.14 was reimbursed to MSPs for overnight stays between April and September last year, down from £9,732.50 in the same period in 2019, and £10,373 in 2018.
And the travel bill was cut by two thirds, from £195,726 to £65,202, as lockdown restrictions led to many politicians working from home.
The overall cost of accommodation in Edinburgh also fell by more than a quarter in the period, from £411,520 to £301,331.
MSPs have been unable to attend Holyrood at the same time as all of their colleagues, to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
It has meant that many have been appearing in parliament and at committees remotely, using online video links, while some constituency surgeries have also been held in this way.
According to the Scottish Parliament’s database, Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan was the only member to claim for overnight accommodation costs in the first two quarters.
He was reimbursed for a £57.99 stay at the Holiday Inn Express at Glasgow Airport in August, and a £9.15 evening meal.
Staff costs not included
The total bill for MSPs’ expenses in the first two quarters was the lowest recorded in at least eight years.
However, one Holyrood insider said it is important to remember that staff costs are not included in the figures, and that they are the single biggest outlay.
They are not revealed until the end of the year, and MSPs have reported rising levels of constituency casework during the pandemic, which could lead to a higher overtime bill.
There have been recent calls to reform the MSP expenses system amid anger at the ongoing claims of disgraced former Finance Secretary Derek Mackay.
The quarterly figures show £6,867 was spent on his rent and bills between April and September last year, despite the Renfrewshire North and West MSP vanishing from public life.