Joan McAlpine MSP has backed calls for an investigation into the source of mysterious cash donations to the local Conservative Party.
It was revealed this week by Investigative Journalism platform ‘The Ferret’ that Conservative Party branches in Dumfries and Galloway have been the biggest beneficiaries of large donations from a mystery trust.
Sixteen donations from the Scottish Unionist Association Trust (SUAT) – a secret organisation without a fixed address or known current trustees – totalling £56,100 went to party branches in Dumfries and Galloway.
The House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee Chair Pete Wishart has now raised a complaint with The Electoral Commission, that regulates election spending – asking for an investigation. There are concerns that unincorporated organisations could “exploit loopholes in electoral law” and “shield political donors from scrutiny”.
The news comes after it was revealed by the BBC that another secret trust with strong links to a senior Scottish Tory funnelled large sums of money to the DUP ahead of the Brexit referendum.
South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine commented:
“It is very concerning that a murky organisation which has been bankrolling the Tories across Scotland has donated the largest sum of money to branches in Dumfries and Galloway. Though given the mountain of electoral material dropped through local letter boxes, maybe not so surprising.
“Tory election spending in Scotland has more than trebled in five years – from £276, 000 in 2011 to over £978’000 in 2016. In the year before the 2016 Holyrood vote the SUAT contributed £28’000 to fund a Tory surge, alongside other secretive organisations.
“It’s difficult to know where that money comes from because these trusts refuse to reveal their trustees or donors.
“This latest revelation comes just days after the BBC uncovered a trail of illegal activity from Senior Scottish Tory Richard Cook – the man behind yet another shadowy trust known as the Constitutional Research Council. The CRC was responsible for a record £435,000 donation to the DUP in the lead up the EU Referendum.
“The Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster, Pete Wishart, has intervened and asked the Electoral Commission to investigate. I too will be asking the Electoral Commission to look into the SUAT – given that constituencies across the south of Scotland are affected.”
Electoral Commission probes £319,000 dark money trust: https://theferret.scot/secretive-trust-scottish-tories-dark-money/
BBC Spotlight: Brexit, Dark Money and the DUP: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-44624299