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Scottish Parliament withholds documents as Deputy First Minister faces allegations of questionable mortgage arrangements.

04 Oct

 Revelations on expenses milking continue on our elected politicians, with Nichol Stephen, the Deputy First Minister caught out this week by the Sunday Herald over a £9000-a-year allowance he receives from the taxpayer to meet interest payments on a £190,000 house he owns with his wife.

In a quote from the article :

Nicol Stephen, who is also leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, has been claiming interest payments for a house he bought in Edinburgh in February 2002.

Both Stephen and his wife are named as debtors in the standard security agreed with mortgage providers. That means if the mortgage is not paid, both are legally responsible.

Yet the Holyrood Allowances Office says it has another document – which it has refused to identify – which lists Stephen as the only name on the loan. There is no clear legal ruling on which document constitutes the mortgage.

The LibDems have come out with a statement on the matter, also contained in the article : “The property is jointly owned by Mr and Mrs Stephen, but the mortgage interest repayments are the sole responsibility of Nicol Stephen, in line with the parliament’s accommodation allowance rules.”

However, with Holyrood refusing to hand over particular documents on the matter .. it looks like there is something to hide … surely, as the Parliament loves to portray itself as being transparent *laughs* … they would have been just as well publishing any relevant documentation in response to media inquiries .. but with this having the makings of yet another scandal of milking the allowances at Holyrood .. the Parliament is proably trying to cap any further investigations from the media.

Well …. I don’t think that’s going to work .. because there seems to be more information coming out on certain msps who are going to have significant problems explaining certain transactions I am not going to disclose just yet … and I am certainly looking forward to those reports being published.

It must be great for all these politicians to get their mortgages paid while the rest of the country wallows in debt & mortgage hell – at the mercy of Banks, lawyers & other financial institutions who are gunning for their every penny and busy throwing families out of their homes for mortgage arrears .. but what has been very noticable in all of this is the lack of any remorse at all on the part of msps over their exposure in the allowances milking scandals to hit Holyrood & the Scottish Executive recently.

Just take a look, for instance, at last week’s Sunday Times interview with John Home Robertson MSP : A new lord of the manor in waiting … which came after the Sunday Herald’s excellent expose on Home Robertson, who was renting his own son’s flat for £7,000 a year at the taxpayers expense .. which I covered here : Scottish Labour Politician rents his own son’s flat for £7000 a year, charging it up to taxpayers

Home Robertson is in waiting for a peerage, by the sounds of his arrogance … a peerage which seems to be on offer so he will step aside to allow another Labour politician to take his seat … but Angus McNeil of the SNP has come forward on that one, asking the peerage be reviewed – which you can read about here : Labour MSP at centre of peerage nomination row … and certainly, the Metropolitcan Police should be taking note of that one in the current loans for peerages scandal to hit all political parties at Westminster.

It seems that Labour & the Fibdems are out to take as much as they can from the taxpayers wallet before they end up getting kicked out at next year’s Holyrood elections … and with the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body fudging the issue of doing anything to stop the expenses milking … there will be a lot of profit taking by msps up to next May.

On issues relating to law .. I have been asked to do an article on some of the themes which cropped up in comments on an article I did on Douglas Mill’s threat to challenge the LPLA Bill in terms of ECHR & other matters on the legal profession’s seemingly god given right to regulate itself, which I covered here : Law Society of Scotland threatens Court challenge against Scottish Executive over LPLA legal reform Bill . It seems my article on Douglas Mill has touched a raw nerve with some, so I will tackle some of the issues of self-regulation this coming week.

Please don’t be shy, members of the Scottish legal profession, about leaving your real names & contact details when you comment on my articles.

I sometimes get threats & nasty emails littered with swearing & slander from lawyers who even use their legal firms email boxes .. and when I have a nice collection, I will publish them all .. so if you don’t like me, or you don’t like clients who take issue with lawyers who defraud clients … then speak up and tell us just how bad we all are . We can take it – after all, its us who are the victims, not those of you in the legal profession … and it’s taken so long to get politicians to recognise that fact … a few more insults or threats from the legal profession would just put the icing on the cake.

Article, from the Sunday Herald, at : http://www.sundayherald.com/59226

Deputy first minister embroiled in ‘houses for spouses’ row

By Paul Hutcheon Scottish Political Editor

THE deputy first minister is facing serious questions over a £9000-a-year allowance he receives from the taxpayer to meet interest payments on a £190,000 house he owns with his wife.

Holyrood rules state that MSPs cannot claim the controversial Edinburgh Accommodation Allowance (EAA) unless theirs is the only name on the mortgage for the property in question.

Nicol Stephen, who is also leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, has been claiming interest payments for a house he bought in Edinburgh in February 2002.

Both Stephen and his wife are named as debtors in the standard security agreed with mortgage providers. That means if the mortgage is not paid, both are legally responsible.

Yet the Holyrood Allowances Office says it has another document – which it has refused to identify – which lists Stephen as the only name on the loan. There is no clear legal ruling on which document constitutes the mortgage.

Stephen is now facing questions on why he is claiming interest payments on a property he only half-owns. If that property is sold, his wife would normally be legally entitled to a share in any profits, despite the fact that the taxpayer helped to buy it.

It is the latest controversy to arise from the discredited EAA, which permits some MSPs to either rent a property in the capital, or to claim mortgage interest on a flat or house.

The scheme has suffered a barrage of negative publicity after this news paper disclosed how

Labour MSP John Home Robertson was using the perk to claim £7000 rental on a property owned by his son.

This was followed by revelations of how transport minister Tavish Scott used the profit made on one taxpayer funded flat to help buy a family home in Morningside worth £380,000. Holyrood is now reviewing the allowance.

The Aberdeen South MSP bought the Morningside property four years ago. Deeds from Registers of Scotland, an Executive agency, show he and his wife are both named as debtors in the standard security.

A Scottish LibDems spokesman said last night: “The property is jointly owned by Mr and Mrs Stephen, but the mortgage interest repayments are the sole responsibility of Nicol Stephen, in line with the parliament’s accommodation allowance rules.”

MSPs were able to claim the payments under a joint mortgage until a rule change in autumn 2001. Now allow ances are only paid if the mortgage is in the MSP’s name alone. The mortgage on Stephen’s house was taken out in 2002.

A spokesman for Holyrood’s Allow ances Office said it had seen a document which showed Stephen as the only name on the loan agreement.

But a senior legal source told the Sunday Herald: “It’s extremely unusual for a standard security agreement to have two names, while the loan agreement has only one. Has the Allowances Office seen the standard security, and how does it square the fact that two people are names as debtors when the loan document lists only one? There are serious questions to be asked.”

Controversy has been absent from Stephen’s ministerial career, yet he has made substantial claims under the EAA.

Reports last year said Stephen was the second-highest claimer of the perk, claiming nearly £53,000 since 1999.

In 1999-2000, the MSP pocketed £5038 under the scheme. In 2004-05, that increased to £10,200. He now claims £748 a month in mortgage payments.

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Posted by on October 4, 2007 in Law

 

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