Investigation launched into Scottish Tories donation amid “dark money” legal fears


Concerns over political donations through ‘unincorporated association’ reported

THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION has launched an investigation into the truth behind a £100,000 donation made to a Conservative association in North Ayrshire after investigative journalists revealed legal concerns over whether it met the requirements of the 2009 Elections Act.

OpenDemocracy published information on a series of high-value Tory donations in Scotland that are bankrolled the party’s campaigning activities. Yet inquiries left a number of unanswered questions over the original sources of party funding, and what transparency is required by law for party donations. 

One £100,000 donation – reportedly from the Irvine Unionist Club to the North Ayrshire Conservative and Unionist Association – has now been taken up as an issue of enquiry for the Electoral Commission, after the Irvine Unionist Club could not be found on the commission’s register of ‘unincorporated associations’. Any donation over £25,000 requires the association to be registered with the commission. 

OpenDemocracy, which was told by a local Tory official that the money had passed onto the “central party” in Edinburgh, said that the failure for the club to register with the commission “appears to be a failure to comply with the requirement of the 2009 Elections Act”.

In response, the commission said: “As an Unincorporated Association, the donor should have applied to register with the commission when making the donation. The Commission is establishing the facts before determining what further steps to take.” Since July 2009, the Tories have received nearly £12m from unincorporated associations. 

OpenDemocracy have also been chasing the “dark money” funnelled through the Democratic Unionist Party of £425,000 to back the Brexit campaign. It turned out most of the money was not spent in Northern Ireland. The donation turned out to be from the Constitutional Research Council, an association chaired by Richard Cook, a former vice chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party.

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives told CommonSpace: “All donations to the Scottish Conservatives are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully with the law. We have not been contacted by the Electoral Commission on this matter.”

Following the 2015 General Election, 12 police forces across England began investigating evidence of Tory electoral misconducts relating to 26 MPs. In court, the Electoral Commission said evidence in the case was “unprecedented” in its scale.

Picture courtesy of @The45Storm

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