NEW questions have been raised over the SNP’s vetting procedures for candidates after it emerged that MP Michelle Thomson discussed her controversial business dealings on her Facebook page as far back as 2010 before she became a star of the Yes campaign and was selected to run as an SNP candidate.
The Edinburgh West MP has been forced to withdraw from the SNP party whip amid questions over the legality and morality of her business dealings involving a solicitor, Chris Hales, who has since been struck off, over 13 property deals linked to Thomson and her business partners. Ms Thomson’s property deals involved the “back to back” buying and selling of houses, owned by vulnerable people. They were bought at below full market value and then resold at far higher prices, often on the same day.
At First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Nicola Sturgeon claimed that she had known nothing about Thomson’s business activities until she read about them in newspaper reports. .
She insisted: “Our vetting procedures are robust but we keep them under review, as I would hope every party does. While we make all reasonable checks and ask all reasonable questions, by definition it is not reasonable to expect that matters of which we have no knowledge can be investigated.”
However The Scotsman has discovered Ms Thomson was very public about her business strategy on her Facebook page at least as far back as 2010.
In one of the entries dated 1 September 2010, she wrote: “Major challenge. Where do I find serious property buyers to help me move on my 30 per cent below current market value properties?”
In another on 3 September 2010, she wrote: “Cash is king. Would I be considered mad, brave or creative to renovate and flip below 50 per cent BMV [below market value] deals at 15-20% BMV?
“It’s still possible to turn a profit after all expenses paid as long as properties are in demand.”
Last night Labour said if the SNP had properly vetted Ms Thomson then it would have picked up on her business activities, and questioned if the leadership ignored evidence about her before making her a candidate and then the party’s business spokeswoman in Westminster.
A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “This is just further proof that the SNP should have known what kind of person they were getting when they selected Michelle Thomson as a parliamentary candidate.”
However the SNP declined to be drawn further on the matter.
An SNP spokesman said: “This issue is under investigation by the relevant authorities, so Labour and the Tories should allow that to come to a conclusion and for all the facts to be examined – instead of indulging in mud-slinging and a rush to judgment.”
Scottish Labour is demanding an independent probe into how the Law Society of Scotland probed property deals by Mr Hales, linked to Ms Thomson.
However, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has made it clear she does not just believe that the legal questions should be investigated, but said it was “an issue of morality” for a senior candidate in a party which ran on a social justice and anti-austerity ticket.
The move comes as a number of families embroiled in the scandal expressed their anger at their own experiences. Mr Hales was struck off by the Scottish Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal (SSDT) for professional misconduct in deals between 2010 and 2011.
Prosecutors have now instructed police to carry out an investigation into “alleged irregularities” relating to the transactions following a complaint by the SSDT.
One couple, Jacqueline and Douglas Wright, told a Sunday newspaper how they sold their flat for £21,000 because they wanted to sell quickly, but discovered it was sold on within a year for £75,000. Another owner is reported to have sold their home for £245,000, only to learn it was sold on the same day to a buyer allegedly for £315,000.