ns-hi-russell-mackinnon-court-3col

Russell MacKinnon's trial is scheduled for next March. (CBC)

Former MLA Russell MacKinnon will go to trial next year on charges related to the expense scandal at the Nova Scotia legislature.

He's charged with eight counts of uttering forged documents and one count each of fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust. He pleaded not guilty on Thursday.

MacKinnon is accused of submitting false expense claims and defrauding taxpayers while he was an MLA for Cape Breton West.

A five-day trial is scheduled to begin on March 12.

MacKinnon, a longtime Liberal who sat as an Independent in his final year, was one of four politicians charged after a report from the auditor general led to a police investigation.

Dave Wilson, the former Liberal MLA for Glace Bay, pleaded guilty to defrauding taxpayers of $61,000 to support a gambling addition. He was sentenced last month to nine months in jail.

MacKinnon's lawyer, Joel Pink, said the two cases are different. He noted to reporters that MacKinnon pleaded not guilty and said his client is accused of taking a lot less money.

Richard Hurlburt, a former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister, has pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust. His sentencing is set for July 5.

Independent Trevor Zinck — the only sitting MLA to be charged — is due in court in June for a preliminary hearing. He is charged with fraud over $5,000, theft over $5,000 and breach of trust.