Referendum postal votes probe passed to prosecutors

POLICE have handed over details to the Crown Office of an investigation into allegations that pro-Union campaigners breached electoral law during last year’s referendum on Scottish independence.
Ruth Davidson was spoken to by police officers as a potential witness. Picture: Jane BarlowRuth Davidson was spoken to by police officers as a potential witness. Picture: Jane Barlow
Ruth Davidson was spoken to by police officers as a potential witness. Picture: Jane Barlow

It comes around 12 months after officers began a probe into complaints that claimed Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson had said that ‘tallies’ were being taken of postal votes in the weeks before the ballot closed at 10pm on September 18th.

Ms Davidson said on TV, less than an hour after the polls closed, that the No camp had been ‘incredibly encouraged’ by results of what she called a ‘sample opening’ of the postal ballot, that had taken place in the weeks leading up to the historic vote.

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Ms Davidson told BBC’s Scotland Decides programme: “We have had people at every sample opening around the country over the last few weeks while that’s been coming in and we have been incredibly encouraged by the results from that.

“Going into today, from the postal votes that were cast, our side would have had a lead and I think that we have a confidence, I hope a quiet confidence, that the quiet majority of Scots have spoken today.”

She said postal votes were not counted until after the polls closed but added: “Different local authorities have had openings around the country. It is illegal to discuss that while any ballot is ongoing, so until 10 o’clock tonight no-one could talk about it.

“But there is people in the room that have been sampling those ballot boxes as they have been opened and they have been taking tallies and the reports have been very positive for us.”

Ms Davidson’s comments led to complaints that the ‘sample opening’ may have influenced Better Together’s decision to put forward ‘The Vow’ in the final days of campaigning.

Police Scotland confirmed the completion of the probe, launched after the Crown Office ordered an official investigation following complaints.

Ms Davidson was spoken to twice by officers, according to The Herald, as a potential witness over her comments.

There are no outstanding warrants and no one has been arrested.

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A Crown Office spokesperson said: “The Crown Office has received information regarding the investigation carried out by Police Scotland and will consider if further action is necessary.”

Campaigners and political agents are permitted to oversee the opening and verification of postal vote, but Elections Scotland warned prior to the referendum that it was an offence for ‘anyone attending the opening of postal votes to attempt to ascertain how any vote has been cast or to communicate any such information obtained’.