The Electoral Commission has fined a major Scottish Conservative party donor in connection with ongoing ‘dark money’ allegations. As openDemocracy reports, the Irvine Unionist Club (IUC) received the fine because of:
Failure to provide notification of gifts to a political party exceeding £25,000, and notification of gifts received by due date.
It follows IUC’s donation of £100,000 to the Scottish Conservatives prior to the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections.
SNP MP Pete Wishart took to Twitter as the news broke of the £400 fine [paywall] reported in the Electoral Commission’s monthly update. He feels the “net is closing in” on the Tories despite the “paltry” fine:
An absolute ridiculous and paltry fine but the net is closing in on the Tories. Expect this will be the first of many transgressions to be properly exposed and punished. The Tories should just come clean now. But they won't. https://t.co/mWgTOC0pTK
— Pete Wishart (@PeteWishart) September 18, 2018
The ‘dark money’ and what it funded
As the Ferret and openDemocracy reported, the Scottish Conservatives have faced accusations [paywall] of receiving ‘dark money’ to fund election campaigns. Moreover, a former vice chair of the Scottish Conservative Party, Richard Cook, was behind the DUP’s £435,000 donation prior to the EU referendum.
The IUC was not a registered Scottish Conservative donor. Tracking where its money came from has proved difficult. The treasurer of North Ayrshire Conservatives, Bryan Gossman, told openDemocracy the donation had been transferred to “the central party in Edinburgh”. However, the Scottish Conservative Party is not an accounting unit registered with the Electoral Commission.
Based on Gossman’s assertion, the donation was essentially “hidden” in the local party’s account. Edinburgh Conservatives and Unionists is the local party of Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. She was conveniently elected as the MSP for Edinburgh Central after spending £950,000 on her campaign; which was 10% funded by the donation from IUC. Scottish Conservatives had only spent £275,000 in previous campaigns in this constituency.
Twitter wants justice
Political opponents of the Tories want answers.
Many on Twitter have expressed frustration at the paltry £400 fine imposed by the Electoral Commission:
This crew donate £100k and get fined £400? That’ll show them eh?!
The Tories say they’re ‘not under investigation’ but if this is really a democracy they damn well should be. They spent it for advantage. They cheated. #DarkMoney #ToryElectionFraud
— Sharon Gathercole (@Sharonwifey) September 19, 2018
So, you can get fined more for a dog shitting on a pavement than procuring dark money to rig an election. Something is badly broken in the system. #DarkMoney
— Oor Blaze fae Skye (@Blazespage) September 18, 2018
£400 fine for failing to disclose a £100,000 donation.
These fines are just becoming "the cost of business" aren't they?https://t.co/dlQG3MwOpF
— Dr Craig Dalzell (@thecommongreen) September 18, 2018
— ???????CHRISTOPHER McEleny??????? (@SNPChris) September 18, 2018
Also, George Monbiot suggests that ‘dark money’ is one of the greatest threats to democracy:
#DarkMoney is arguably the greatest current threat to democracy. Here's yet another manifestation of it, helping the media's darling, Ruth Davidson, during the last election. More brilliant work by @openDemocracy and @AdamRamsay: https://t.co/9j0VmSAdCq
— GeorgeMonbiot (@GeorgeMonbiot) September 18, 2018
And Scottish Labour has called on Davidson to “come clean” about ‘dark money’:
? A secretive Scottish organisation which handed £100,000 to the Tories has been fined by Britain’s elections watchdog.
— Scottish Labour (@scottishlabour) September 18, 2018
So it would be in the best interests of the Scottish Conservative Party to start talking. Voters have waited long enough.
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