MSPs’ journeys to be kept secret and social media upgrades in security overhaul

MSPs will be offered the chance to trial software to automatically flag threatening social media messages to police as part of improved security measures.

The Scottish Parliament Corporate Body (SPCB) has published a string of tightened security measures to be offered to Holyrood politicians following the death of Conservative MP Sir David Amess, who was killed while at a surgery in his constituency in Essex.

Journeys that “divulge members’ regular travel patterns” will no longer be published by officials – despite raising questions of transparency and travel details bringing down two MSPs in previous scandals.

Keith Raffan, the Liberal Democrat list MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife, resigned on health grounds in advance of his expense claims being published in full.

The previous month, it emerged he had billed the Scottish Parliament £41,152 for travelling an improbable 83,477 miles to see constituents in his Skoda, the equivalent of driving three times round the world.

When the full details were published they showed he had claimed to be out and about in Fife on several days when he wasn’t even in Scotland, and also claimed a staggering number of trips to Edzell in Angus, one of his region’s most distant villages.

Scottish Conservative leader David McLetchie resigned in 2015 following a row over taxi expenses.

Out of more than £11,000 in taxi claims, £5,000 was for journeys not specified in detail.

The SPCB insisted that “transparency is vital within our expenses system” but said that the move to stop publishing journeys from later this month is needed “with a renewed focus” on safety.

The SPCB said it is “acutely aware of the rising level of online abuse and intimidation towards elected representatives”.

Under the plans, officials have been asked to “trial software that would identify key words and potentially threatening language” sent to MSPs on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms.

MSPs would have to “expressly opt into the service which would operate on their behalf” with SPCB officials stressing that “any issues of concern picked up by the service would be escalated to Police Scotland as appropriate”.

MSPs will be also able to claim up to £2,500 to pay for security upgrades to their constituency homes and Edinburgh accommodation.

Politicians can request Police Scotland security reviews of their homes, and if any upgrades are needed they can quickly claim up to £2,000 for constituency homes and £500 for Edinburgh accommodation.

The use of “lone working devices” among MSP staff has also been expanded.

However, the review identified only “modest” demand for security guards at surgeries.

A survey was carried out as part of the review, with 62 MSPs responding.

The update said: “The majority of members (47 respondents, 76%) were not interested in having security personnel accompany them to constituency surgeries or meetings.

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