Douglas Ross in MP expenses cover-up while working as assistant referee

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)

MP expenses claims made by Douglas Ross while carrying out lucrative work as a football referee were hushed up by worried aides, the Sunday Mail can reveal.

The Scottish Tory leader’s team identified 28 “dodgy” claims he made to Westminister after being confronted about possible rule-breaking.

But the findings have only emerged after the outcry over Ross ousting sick colleague David Duguid to stand in his constituency last week.

Three jobs Ross billed the taxpayer for flights between London to Glasgow and Edinburgh, where he was working as an SFA linesman.

Expenses watchdogs were given the impression he was simply returning to his Moray constituency. They were all wrongly classed as “London-constituency” with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).

His team identified the 28 where he wrongly used parliamentary-funded travel to facilitate ref work after we first asked questions in 2021.

Ross, 41, faces criticism for having three jobs as a referee, MSP and MP and U-turned on plans to quit his Westminster role then announced he was standing again.

A senior Tory source revealed the team discussed the travel claims when contacted by journalists but hoped nobody would pick them up.

They had identified multiple cases where Ross had combined parliamentary travel with linesman work or claims for parking while refereeing on expenses.

The revelations have come to light after Ross ousted Duguid to stand in the new Aberdeenshire North and Moray East constituency.

A party insider said: “The latest antics from Douglas are a disgrace and he should be ashamed of himself. He has always wanted to stay at Westminster and he’s completely screwed over a hard-working colleague to get there. Many of us are disgusted with it.”

The individual revealed 28 travel claims were flagged internally which could be damaging if exposed.

The Sunday Mail has seen messages from November 2021 which revealed the panic after we asked questions. Ross’s closest aides refer to them as “dodgy” and suggest they “bluff” it out.

Only travel from an MP’s declared home airport –Inverness or Aberdeen for Ross – can be claimed as constituency travel.

All other travel, if it does not cost more, must be classed as a ‘diverted journey’. MPs must provide detailed notes alongside every claim to explain why it was diverted. Some of the dozens of cases identified by Ross’s team in November 2021 include £58 parking at Inverness airport in July 2018 while parliament was in recess and £43 rail travel from Heathrow to central London the day after Ross refereed a match in Iceland.

In October 2019, he claimed for a flight from London to Glasgow and for £109 parking with NCP car parks. On November 1, 2020, he claimed £48.99 for parking the day he refereed a Celtic game. Others cannot be identified without access to specific dates and receipts.

Assistant referee and leader of the Scottish conservative party Douglas Ross MP
Assistant referee and leader of the Scottish conservative party Douglas Ross MP -Credit:SNS Group

Ross was one of the fiercest critics of MSP Michael Matheson, the former SNP Health secretary suspended after incorrectly claiming an £11,000 phone bill on expenses.He called for him to be given a “red card”, saying it was “not a harmless mistake.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “After his response to Matheson’s iPad scandal, it is height of hypocrisy if Douglas Ross has also been attempting to rip off taxpayers. These dodgy claims need
an urgent explanation.”

The SNP said: “This revelation will come as no surprise after the recent shameful behaviour of Douglas Ross, however further scrutiny is clearly needed. He needs to urgently explain whether he has been using taxpayer money to pay his expenses for his third job as a linesman.”

Ross faces mounting pressure within his Holyrood group after deciding to stand as an MP, with a senior Tories in Edinburgh claiming he could face a vote of no confidence.

When confronted about the errors, Ross claimed it was “not possible” to go from London to a football game as he didn’t have his referee kit with him.

He was unable to explain why some trips were recorded as travel to his constituency for flying to Glasgow or Edinburgh but acknowledged the way the expenses were displayed did not make it clear to understand. His spokesman said IPSA had looked at his expenses in 2021, adding: “We did
investigate at the time. We’d be happy to look at it again.”

Ross denied knowing about his team’s concerns about the story coming out.

He said: “Nobody spoke to me about this. I have only ever claimed expenses related to my role as a Member of Parliament.These have all been agreed by IPSA but I have no issue with them being scrutinised again.”

Ross earns £91,346 as an MP, and gets £22,554 from his job as an MSP but donates this to local charities each month. Last year he earned around £10,300 as top-flight referee.

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