The MP for the Western Isles is refusing to answer questions over newspaper claims that he spent thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ cash on Icelandic lessons.
Angus Macneil lists Iceland as one of his countries of interest and is understood to regularly visit but there is widespread bewilderment and anger from political opponents and members of the public at his decision to make taxpayers meet the bill.
A rumour currently doing the rounds in the islands is that Mr Macneil has been secretly positioning himself as Scotland’s first ambassador to Iceland in the case of a Yes vote next week.
Claims about the Icelandic language lessons have been published twice in the last week in the Daily Record. The paper said the cost of the lessons, which was said to be more than £2,300, was subsequently claimed by Mr Macneil as parliamentary expenses.
Various members of the islands’ Labour Party have insisted it was unacceptable that Mr Macneil was showing contempt for electors by refusing to answer questions on the reasons for his unusual alleged expenses claim.
One of them said: “It is perfectly understandable that Angus would want to look around for a new job. He would hopefully make a better ambassador to Iceland than he has done as MP for Eilean Siar. If there is a Yes vote next week, he will soon be out of work so it is right that he prepares for that. What we don’t understand is why he thinks the taxpayers of the UK should pay for language lessons to help him get another job.
“If that is not actually what he’s doing, then you would have thought that any MP would have felt a moral duty to be open and honest about what reasons he had for making us pay that considerable sum.
“The fact that Angus Macneil is currently refusing to answer media questions means people are entitled to think he really does have something awful to hide. Pressure should now be put on him to put that right – or get out.”
In emails sent to Mr Macneil and his staff on Thursday afternoon, he was asked if the newspaper reports about him claiming expenses for Icelandic lessons were true and, if so, when he lodged the claims and when the lessons were actually taken.
He was also asked why the lessons were thought necessary, and whether he shopped around to get a better deal on the price. He was also quizzed on whether he planned to learn any more languages in connection with his other regular foreign trips to, for example, Gibraltar, where an ongoing territorial dispute with Spain is affecting many aspects of life.
More than 24 hours later, there was not even an acknowledgement from Mr Macneil or his office to the enquiry.