THERE are rails of second-hand clothes, books for £1 and assorted crockery and toys piled up on the shelves.
While Tories in London hold fundraising balls at five-star hotels, auctioning off bronze statues of Margaret Thatcher or a shoe-shopping trip with Theresa May, the party in Edinburgh is running an undercover thrift shop at Tollcross to help pay for its election campaign.
But there is no sign outside the former beauty salon in Lochrin Buildings to say it is being run by the Tories.
And inside, the only indication is a piece of A4 paper with the words “Edinburgh Conservative Shop” scrawled by hand and stuck to the wall.
When the Evening News visited, even this was almost entirely hidden by picture frames.
Today, the party was accused of misleading shoppers by allowing people to believe they were visiting a charity shop.
Andy Inglis, 37, from Merchiston, was dismayed to find he had bought children’s clothes from the shop, thinking the money was going to charity, only to find he was helping fund the Tories.
He said: “I was out shopping and noticed this pop-up shop. I went in and bought four pairs of kids’ trousers for £1 each – it seemed a good bargain. I took it for granted it was a charity shop because there was no sign up saying otherwise and it was all second-hand bric-a-brac and clothes. I never saw any sign.”
He said he only discovered the truth when he had a friend visiting. “She’s a charity shop fanatic – and I said there was a new one at the end of Gilmore Place. She didn’t buy anything, but she did ask what charity it was for and they said it was going to the Tory party.
“I was annoyed. It’s misleading. If I had known I wouldn’t have gone in.”
The shop, rented commercially by the Edinburgh Conservative Association, has been running for four weeks and has another four to run.
Joanna Cherry, SNP candidate for Edinburgh South West, said: “This is really low stuff from the Tories – hoodwinking hard-working local people is just not on. This shop needs to make clear exactly what their proceeds are used for.
“[Scottish Conservative leader] Ruth Davidson needs to explain why this shop has been operating this way and must take action to ensure that not one penny more from local people is taken – unless they are entirely clear what that money is for.”
Former Edinburgh Tory councillor Alastair Paisley, one of the volunteers staffing the shop, said they had run similar ventures in previous years.
He said they had given out leaflets on the day it opened saying it was a Tory shop. And he insisted: “We’re not trying to delude people. We don’t claim it’s a charity. If anyone asks, we tell them it is for the Tories.”
He said the items for sale had been donated by party supporters and the shop was expected to raise “thousands” for the party.
‘Sign was obstructed by frames’
When I entered the shop, I was greeted by an older gentleman, who warmly welcomed me inside.
After a couple of minutes of browsing the items for sale, another customer joined me and began looking at some books.
After choosing some, he asked a woman volunteer if the shop was raising money for a charity and, if so, which one.
After a moment of hesitation, and a few “ums” and “ahhs”, she finally answered “well . . . it’s for electioneering”.
With further prompting from the customer, asking what party the funds raised would go towards, the man serving pointed to a sign behind the counter.
The sign, almost invisible and completely obstructed by picture frames hanging in front of it, said “Edinburgh Conservative Shop”.
The man politely replied “ok” and left the shop.