SR columnist Alex Bell, former adviser to Alex Salmond, wrote in this magazine on 20 January that the SNP is 'composed of self-starting entrepreneurial types, Thatcher's children to a person...we get a picture of bustling aspirational types who see no wrong in getting rich'. There was a lively response on social media to this claim, including personal abuse directed at Alex Bell.
How true is his unflattering appraisal of a party which takes pride in its left-wing credentials and its commitment to equality and social justice, and whose leaders have expressed disdain for the dubious ethics of Westminster politics? SR decided to put Mr Bell's claim to a factual test by conducting an inquiry into the financial interests of the SNP's Westminster group. For these purposes, we included all 56 of the nationalist MPs elected last May, including two who have subsequently lost the party whip (Michelle Thomson and Natalie McGarry).
Most of the financial information in the following report covers a nine-month period from the start of the new UK parliament in May 2015 to the end of January 2016. It has been collected from a variety of sources: the parliamentary register of interests, company accounts, corporate and individual websites, credit ratings, and other material in the public domain.
For ease of reference, the results are presented in 10 sections: The entrepreneurs; The writers and artists; The professionals; The employers; The landlords; The property investors; The recipients of donations; The world travellers; The honoured guests; The others.
The inquiry has yielded many illuminating facts. Whether the results justify the assertion that the SNP consists of 'Thatcher's children to a person', we leave readers to judge.
Richard Arkless (Dumfries and Galloway) is co-director with his wife of Led Warehouse Ltd, an electrical business in Stranraer. In 2014, the most recent year for which we were able to obtain financials, the company's balance sheet was running net liabilities of £5,112.
Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) is chairman of Golden Charter Trust, which brands itself 'the leading independent provider of funeral plans' (subscribers are invited to pay monthly from £20.67 'for all the essentials'). He is paid £6,129.60 a quarter for eight hours' work – an hourly rate of £766.20 – and is entitled under his agreement with the company to be paid £1,429.82 a day for additional work. In August 2015 he was paid £1,430 for an additional day's work and in October-November he received £1,630 for a one-hour telephone call and a six-hour meeting. He is also chairman of Commsworld Plc, Edinburgh, which describes itself as 'Scotland's leading telecommunications network provider'. It pays him £1,000 a month for eight hours a quarter. His 'investment portfolio' is managed by Brooks Macdonald, based in London and Edinburgh.
Lisa Cameron (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) is the only director of Psychological Services Scotland Ltd. In 2014, the most recent year for which we were able to obtain financials, the company had net assets of £14,400. She receives £150 a month from this company for five hours' work.
Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) is founder and one of two directors of Teclan Ltd, a digital marketing company based in Inverness. He is listed on the company's website as 'Honorary Chairman'. Last year the company had net assets of £99,600.
Chris Law (Dundee West) is managing director of Cmal Ltd, a financial services company. Last year the company had net assets of £121,000.
John McNally (Falkirk) is owner of a hair salon, The Barber Shop, in Denny, where he works on Saturday mornings, earning £600 a month.
Brendan O'Hara (Argyll and Bute) describes himself as a director of Oh! Television, 'a production company which has not traded'.
Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East) is co-founder of Salt 'n' Sauce Promotions Ltd. Its business activity is listed as 'public houses and bars'. The other directors of the company include two comedians: Francis (Frankie) Boyle and Frederick (Fred) Macaulay. In 2014, the most recent year for which we were able to obtain financials, the company had net assets of £800,000.
Michelle Thomson (Edinburgh West) is the director of Your Property Shop Ltd. In 2014, the most recent year for which we were able to obtain financials, the company had net assets of £4,500.
Corri Wilson (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock) is one of two directors of Caledonii Resources Ltd, an event management company. Last year, the company had net assets of £37.
Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (Ochil and South Perthshire) receives £150 a week from Newsquest Ltd for a column in The National (an independence-supporting daily newspaper) which takes her two hours a week.
Mhairi Black (Paisley and Renfrewshire South) receives £150 a week from Newsquest Ltd for a column in The National, which takes her three hours a week. She donates her fees from this source to charity.
George Kerevan (East Lothian) receives £600 a month from Newsquest Ltd for a column in an un-named newspaper (believed to be The National) which takes him eight hours a month.
Alex Salmond (Gordon) has a company, Chronicles of Deer Ltd, which receives £27,000 a quarter – £108,000 a year – from D C Thomson, a Dundee-based newspaper publisher known for its antipathy to trade unions, and its subsidiary, Aberdeen Journals, for articles and interviews which take him six hours a week. In addition, Chronicles of Deer Ltd received £13,500 from D C Thomson and £13,500 from Aberdeen Journals for articles published before the general election. A fee of £200 from the Daily Record for a pre-election article was paid direct to charity and a fee of £1,000 from Newsquest Ltd for five articles in The National before the election was paid to a community organisation. Chronicles of Deer Ltd received £10,000 from Harper Collins for sales of a book already published, £1,080.43 for the Basque language edition of a book, and a fee of £1,800 for an appearance on the BBC TV programme, 'Have I Got News for You'. Chronicles of Deer Ltd can expect to pay corporation tax at 20%.
Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East) received £150 for an article in the Sunday Times Scotland.
Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) received royalty payments totalling £2,835.63 for his former work as a musician.
Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) states: 'As a QC and member of the Faculty of Advocates, I will continue to receive payments for legal services rendered before my election'. In the current financial year to date, she has received payments of £11,000, £712.50 and £82,237.50 from a firm of Edinburgh solicitors and payments of £1,500 and £14,250 from a firm of Airdrie solicitors – a total of £109,700.
Stephen Gethins (North East Fife) 'expects' to receive a fee of £3,800 from Public Administration International (of Russell Square, London) for his work as a communications consultant between April and September 2015, 'including a visit to Namibia'.
Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) received £1,008 as a locum consultant surgeon in Ayrshire for 17.5 hours' work over three days.
Following the expenses scandal, the Committee on Standards in Public Life called for the practice of MPs employing members of their family to be banned, which would have brought the UK parliament into line with the European Parliament. Its recommendation was rejected and the practice continues. The pay scale for MPs' staff ranges from £15,000 to £43,000, though some who work part-time earn proportionately less. At the beginning of the parliament in May 2015, it was estimated that 15 members of the new intake – including five members of the SNP parliamentary group – were employing family members at the taxpayer's expense. SR's inquiry has revealed that two more members of the group (Neil Gray and George Kerevan) are now doing likewise.
Richard Arkless (Dumfries and Galloway) employs his wife as part-time personal assistant.
Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) employs his step-son as a caseworker.
Neil Gray (Airdrie and Shotts) employs his brother-in-law as his office manager.
George Kerevan (East Lothian) employs his wife as personal assistant.
Angus MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) employs his wife as parliamentary assistant and caseworker.
Paul Monaghan (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) employs his brother as 'constituency communications manager'.
Corri Wilson (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock) employs her son as a caseworker/personal assistant.
The leader of the group, Angus Robertson (Moray), did employ his wife, but this arrangement ceased at the end of May last year.
The rules require MPs to register property for which they receive a rental income of more than £10,000 a year.
Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (Ochil and South Perthshire) has declared a half-share in three flats in Glasgow and a half share in a house in Kingussie producing undisclosed rental income.
Richard Arkless (Dumfries and Galloway) has declared a house in West Lothian and a flat in Glasgow producing undisclosed rental income.
Lisa Cameron (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) has declared a house in South Lanarkshire and five residential and holiday let apartments in Edinburgh and South Lanarkshire producing undisclosed rental income.
Calum Kerr (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) has declared a house in Wester Ross producing undisclosed rental income.
Angus McNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar), who states his employment as a tenant crofter on the island of Barra, has declared a flat in Glasgow and a flat in London producing undisclosed rental income.
John Nicolson (East Dunbartonshire) has declared a house in London producing undisclosed rental income.
Michelle Thomson (Edinburgh West) has declared two residential properties in Edinburgh, one on Bute, one in East Calder, one in Stirling, one in Falkirk, one in Dollar, plus a half-share of a property in Edinburgh – a portfolio of eight properties producing undisclosed rental income.
The rules further require MPs to register property with a value of more than £100,000, other than their own homes, for which they receive no rental income.
Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) has declared a croft on Skye and a house in Lanark.
Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) has declared that she and her partner have half-share ownership of two flats in Edinburgh.
Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) has declared a flat in Edinburgh.
Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) has declared a house in Inverness-shire.
Chris Law (Dundee West) has declared a flat in Dundee owned by himself and a flat in Aberdeen owned by his company, Cmal Ltd.
Stuart McDonald (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) has declared a flat in East Dunbartonshire.
Steven Paterson (Stirling) has declared a 50% share in a flat in Stirling.
Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East) has declared commercial premises and a residential property owned by his company, Salt 'n' Sauce Promotions Ltd.
MPs must register donations paid to their party organisation which are linked to them personally.
Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (Ochil and South Perthshire): £2,000 from Springfield Real Estate Management Ltd, Elgin.
Richard Arkless (Dumfries and Galloway): £5,000 from his parents in five instalments of £1,000.
Mhairi Black (Paisley and Renfrewshire South): £5,000 from Flagship Media Group, Belfast. Note: The CEO of Flagship Media Group is Scots-born Derek Carstairs. Mr Carstairs is no stranger to unfavourable publicity over the years; he once featured in a television documentary on 'Britain's worst bosses' and on another occasion appeared in court in Belfast charged with assulting a former employee outside a pub. The charge was dropped; Mr Carstairs was, however, bound over to keep the peace. In 2005, his company launched a short-lived weekly paper, The Scottish Standard, devoted to the cause of independence. According to a credit rating agency, Flagship Media Group is 'considered to represent an above-average risk'.
Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber): £3,000 from a private individual, David Craigen, who is believed to be a hedge fund manager in London.
Douglas Chapman (Dunfermline and West Fife): £2,000 in two donations from a private individual.
Martyn Day (Linlithgow and East Falkirk): £2,500 from a private individual.
Patrick Grady (Glasgow North): £2,000 from a private individual.
Neil Gray (Airdrie and Shotts): £3,750 from Hydracat, Lanarkshire, a company involved in 'ground investigation'.
Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey): £3,000 from the Witherby Publishing Group, Livingston.
George Kerevan (East Lothian): £2,000 from a private individual.
Callum McCaig (Aberdeen South): £2,094 in two donations from a private individual.
Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North): £5,000 from Flagship Media Group, Belfast (see also Mhairi Black).
Alex Salmond (Moray): £2,500 from a private individual – Ralph Topping. A person of that name is the former CEO of William Hill, the bookmakers, and a prominent 'Yes' supporter during the referendum campaign.
Michelle Thomson (Edinburgh West): £5,000 from Springfield Real Estate Management Ltd, Elgin (see also Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh) and five payments totalling £10,921.89 from the Witherby Publishing Group, Livingston (see also Drew Hendry).Note: The Witherby Publishing Group is a specialist publisher of maritime books and journals.
Mike Weir (Angus): £3,000 from a private individual.
MPs are obliged to declare donations which help them with travel expenses, accommodation, meals etc.
Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (Ochil and South Perthshire) received £4,900 from the British Council as a member of a parliamentary delegation 'to support the work of the British Council in Pakistan'; £2,677.09 from the UK China Forum for a trip to China to attend the UK-China Leadership Forum; £738 from the Consultative Assembly, Iran, for a visit to Tehran as part of a parliamentary delegation 'to discuss international trade, nuclear disarmament and human rights issues'; and £334.70 from Harper Collins for a visit to the Bahamas 'to produce material for audiobook' – a total of £8,649.79 in support of the member's foreign travel.
Hannah Bardell (Livingston) received £4,900 from the British Council (see also Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh) and £2,537 from the UK China Forum (see also Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh) – a total of £7,437 in support of the member's foreign travel.
Mhairi Black (Paisley and Renfrewshire South) received £2,851 from ONE (151 Wardour Street, London) for a visit to Kenya 'to visit sites funded by UK international development funds'.
Lisa Cameron (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) received £1,850 from Results UK as a member of a delegation visiting Zambia 'to gain insight into how Zambia is addressing major health challenges'; £1,416.91 from Christian Aid to attend a Pan-African parliamentary summit in Kenya on climate change; and £780 from the UK Japan 21st Century Group to attend a conference in London and Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire – a total of £4,046.91 in support of the member's travel at home and abroad.
Stephen Gethins (North East Fife) received £721 from the German Marshall Fund of the United States for a trip to Berlin to take part in the Mercator European Dialogue ('to discuss the future of the EU').
Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) received £827 from the government of Gilbraltar for a visit to Gilbraltar 'for their National Day'.
Natalie McGarry (Glasgow East) received £1,977 from the New World Summit of Amsterdam 'to attend a summit in Syria'.
Angus MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) received £812 from the government of Gibraltar to attend National Day (see also Drew Hendry).
Paul Monaghan (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) received £600 from Fatah UK and Nazil Salim Al-Khalil to visit the West Bank for 'factfinding'.
Alex Salmond (Gordon) received £1,040 from the European Tour in connection with his participation in a golf tournament for seniors and £738 from the Consultative Assembly, Iran, as part of a parliamentary delegation to Tehran (see also Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh) – a total of £1,778 in support of the member's foreign travel.
Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) received £1,341.05 from Results UK for a visit to Ethiopia 'for visiting healthcare facilities to see progress against polio and malaria'.
Douglas Chapman (Dunfermline and West Fife) received from Exxon Mobil two tickets and hospitality at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo worth £800.
Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) received from the Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival admission for himself and his family worth £585.12. He points out that he took part in a 'panel debate' at this event.
Of the 56 SNP members elected in May 2015 (including the two who no longer have the party whip), 20 had nothing or very little to declare:
Kirsty Blackman (Aberdeen North)
Philip Boswell (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill)
Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun)
Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde)
Angela Crawley (Lanark and Hamilton East)
Martin Docherty (West Dunbartonshire)
Stuart Donaldson (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine)
Marion Fellows (Motherwell and Wishaw)
Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West)
Peter Grant (Glenrothes)
Stewart Hosie (Dundee East)
Stewart McDonald (Glasgow South)
Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow North East)
Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West)
Roger Mullin (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath)
Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire)
Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West)
Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central)
Owen Thompson (Midlothian)
Eilidh Whiteford (Banff and Buchan)