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General Election 2010: Inquiry into votes 'leak' by blogger

POLICE have launched an inquiry after a Scottish Nationalist blogger allegedly disclosed confidential information about postal votes being cast in several seats around Edinburgh.

Election officials are understood to have complained to police about a post on the blog snptacticalvoting.com that appeared to discuss early returns from three seats in Edinburgh and the Lothians being contested by the SNP – a breach of electoral law.

It is understood blogger Jeff Breslin, from Leith, removed his post before he knew of the complaint or the police enquiry after a follower on Twitter warned him it was potentially illegal.

In an update to his blog posted last night, Mr Breslin admitted the "silly post" had centred on "what I thought at the time was the harmless gossip of postal ballot results".

He added that he had not yet been contacted by the police, but said he was "easily contactable" if they wanted to speak to him.

He described his apparent breach of the rules as "an honest mistake". And he continued: "I am sure no one gained an advantage from the blog post. That was certainly not its intent, and I am sure that not one single vote will be changed as a result of it."

He also said he had cancelled his membership of the SNP.

Lothian and Borders police said: "Police can confirm they have received a complaint regarding the contravening of the Representation of the People Act 1983. Enquiries are ongoing." The act says it is a criminal offence to reveal anything about votes cast before polling has officially ended due to the risk of influencing the outcome.

The investigation follows a police inquiry announced last week after Kerry McCarthy, Labour candidate in Bristol East, also disclosed postal vote information on her Twitter feed.

Tory leader David Cameron was due to campaign in Scotland today as the polls continued to show his party ahead.

Tonight he will go on a 24-hour, all-night campaign blitz, meeting fishermen, bakers and florists working through the early hours and may feature on night-time radio shows.

Two polls of marginal seats showed the Tories gaining ground. One suggested the party could win 103 out of the 140 Labour-held marginals looked at, but none of the 20 Lib Dem-held seats surveyed, leaving Mr Cameron 14 seats short of a majority.

The other, smaller study of 57 Labour-held marginals suggested the Tories might manage an overall majority of two seats.

But Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg – also in Scotland today – accused the Tories of planning to slash the education budget by almost 30 billion.

He said analysis by influential think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies revealed the Tories would have to cut departmental spending by 21.7 per cent by the end of the next parliament, which he said would mean 28.8 billion being cut from education over the next five years.

Actor Richard Wilson fronts Labour's final election broadcast tonight, urging people to use the 60 seconds that it takes to vote to protect the economy, their jobs and their families from Tory cuts.

And he warns that if people get into bed with Nick Clegg they might end up with David Cameron as Prime Minister.

The broadcast, which also features actors Ross Kemp, David Tennant, Bill Bailey, Jo Brand and Tony Robinson, attacks Tory plans to cut child tax credits and child trust funds to give an inheritance tax cut to the richest few estates in the country.

Word on the street from troubled investor

By MARK McLAUGHLIN

A BUSINESSMAN has erected a 40-foot-long hoarding outside his home challenging his local election candidates to personally explain how they are going to stop his business going to the wall.

Property investor Ian McDonald – who lives in Chancellor Alistair Darling's constituency – said he was forced to lay off nearly all of his staff and sell off assets when RBS began clawing back his loans at the start of the credit crunch.

He said his company, Loanhead-based Ian McDonald Enterprises (IME), is facing bankruptcy by the end of the year unless politicians can force the banks to start lending again.

He said: "Prior to the credit crunch RBS were actively encouraging me to expand, and offering me more and more loans to expand my portfolio of properties.

"I expanded to around 30 properties and employed a team of around 20, including joiners, plumbers, architects and lawyers.

"But then, as soon as the credit crunch hit, the bank turned around and said they wanted all of their money back. I had to lay off all of my staff and sell off the company vehicles to make the repayments.

"I've now been given until December to repay all of my loans. If I can't pay then I'm afraid I'll have to go out of business."

The 55-year-old businessman, who has two children and two grandchildren, decided to vent his fury in a very public fashion by spending 450 to erect the huge banner outside his home on Lanark Road.

The banner reads: "I am a company director (and] have lived & worked my whole life in Edinburgh. I have employed on average around 20 people and I now employ one.

"Why should we the people suffer all property losses, higher interest, refusal to lend, no overdrafts, loss of house & careers?"

Mr McDonald, also chairman of local football team Redhall Star, has also questioned why he has never seen any of his candidates supporting the team.

He said he has received support from neighbours following the stunt, and has become "something of a local hero".

Mr Darling, who is expected to hold Edinburgh South West on Thursday, said: "I haven't heard from Mr McDonald so far but I would be happy to discuss his problems with him, as I am with every constituent."

SNP candidate Kaukab Stewart visited him last night, while Liberal Democrat candidate Tim McKay also vowed to pay him a visit.

Conservative candidate Jason Rust declined to comment.

An RBS spokesman said it was keen to investigate Mr McDonald's case: "We continue to support viable businesses and during 2009 approved 85 per cent of all lending requests. That said, we also know that it is not in anyone's interest for us to extend borrowing to businesses which are unable to repay."

NOT GETTING THROUGH TO STUDENTS

CANDIDATES for one of the city's tightest seats have complained that they're being stopped from communicating with local students.

Prospective MPs for the Edinburgh East seat can't post their election leaflets to the 2000 Pollock Halls residents after university staff stopped them getting through.

Even though parties have the names of students from the electoral role, Edinburgh University staff apparently said they would need the exact room number to deliver mail.

SNP candidate George Kerevan said: "We are constantly being told how we should be trying to engage young people in the democratic process, but here is a university policy that stops that process.

"It's not just about the SNP. This is a protest on behalf of all the parties."

He said they had permission from Edinburgh University Students Association but staff at Pollock Halls told them they were not prepared to accept any more electoral mail.

 
 
 

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