Former Conservative MP and shadow secretary of state for Scotland Peter Duncan has resigned as a trustee for the Scottish Unionist Association Trust (SUAT). It’s the trust at the centre of the Scottish Conservatives’ ‘dark money’ scandal. The Ferret originally [paywall] reported the allegations on 26 June. Duncan quit after he was “outed [paywall]” as a lobbyist of the Scottish Tories whilst a trustee of SUAT.
SUAT is under scrutiny because it has reportedly [paywall] given the Scottish Tories nearly £319,000 since 2001. The “permissibility” of the donations is under investigation by the Electoral Commission.
The trustee, the lobbyist
The BBC reported that Duncan resigned on 19 July. The Ferret revealed his lobbying of the Scottish Tory MSPs on the same day. Rob Edwards, a journalist for the Ferret, was quoted by the BBC saying it was “very interesting” because he chose to resign the same day he was outed as a lobbyist.
As reported by the Ferret, Scottish Green Party co-convener Patrick Harvie said:
Resigning from the SUAT was the right thing to do, it’s just a shame that it took sustained media scrutiny for Peter Duncan to make a choice. Those remaining trustees must do everything they can to ensure there are no obstacles to the Electoral Commission’s investigation.
On 19 July, Harvie had called on [paywall] Duncan to choose between his roles as a lobbyist and a SUAT trustee.
Tombolas and Raffles
Duncan appeared on BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland on 29 July. He was questioned about ‘dark money’ because of his connections with SUAT and his lobbying of the Scottish Tory MSPs. He defended the “permissibility” of the SUAT donations to the Scottish Conservatives:
I was satisfied, and remain satisfied, that the trust is a permissible donor and that this is in no way dark money
Moreover, Duncan has claimed that the trusts funds are “historic proceeds of tombolas and raffles” dating back 50 years.
He went on to explain the financial history of the SUAT funds:
They were transferred into a trust with the express purpose, not of spending it, but actually investing it long-term. And that’s what the trust has done since about the time I was born. It has invested that money with the objective of growing its capital base and making some of the proceeds available on a semi-regular basis to the party’s campaigns.
What does Twitter think?
Scottish Tories have been pretty quiet on social media about the ‘dark money’ allegations. So voters have taken to Twitter to express their opinions:
Hmm. How generous of all those people, donating money to sit in an account for 50 years, unspent even during the Tory wipeout of the 90s.
— The Saboteur #FBPE (@DoomlordVek) July 30, 2018
What were the raffle prizes? Small houses in Giffnock? 😏
— leah franchetti (@LeahFranchetti) July 30, 2018
Phew thank God for that. Think this puts the Dark Money story to bed.
— Alan Hinnrichs (@AlanHinnrichs) July 30, 2018
It would appear some Twitter users need more convincing due to lack of engagement from elected members. So Scottish Tories, the ball’s in your court. It’s time to be transparent about the alleged ‘dark money’, because the voters deserve some answers.
– Join The Canary, so we can keep holding the powerful to account.