SNP cleared of breaking electoral law after Tory challenge

Tory chief whip John Lamont has written to the Electoral Commission. Picture: Lisa FergusonTory chief whip John Lamont has written to the Electoral Commission. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Tory chief whip John Lamont has written to the Electoral Commission. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
The elections watchdog has dismissed opposition claims that the new independence initiative drive launched by Nicola Sturgeon today breaks campaign law.

The Tories had called on the Electoral Commission to investigate concerns that voters may be duped into thinking it is an official Scottish Government survey, instead of an SNP initiative.

But the claims have been rejected by commission chiefs who say that the party affiliation is not necessary as the materials are not seeking to promote the SNP.

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“The law states that only election material that seeks to promote a political party or category of candidates at relevant elections is legally required to have an ‘imprint’," a spokeswoman for the commission said.

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"The contents of the “activist guide” associated with ‘the National Survey’ do not seek to do this and therefore does not require an ‘imprint’.

The new "conversation on independence" set out by the SNP leader today will ask Scots their views on issues like Brexit, independence, defence the economy and currency.

But the Tories raised questions over the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 which states that campaign material must include the name and address of the political party which has issued it.

They say the SNP’s ‘National Survey’ collects personal data for the SNP – but has no SNP logos, and uses a design and colour scheme that look like official Scottish Government documents.

Tory chief whip John Lamont had called for the Electoral Commission to look into the issue.

"This is shameless from the SNP – trying to dress up their party political stunt as official business," he said.

"At first glance you’d think this was a leaflet from the Scottish Government. Nowhere does it say it’s actually campaigning material from the SNP.

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"Nicola Sturgeon says she want to listen to the people of Scotland. They should listen to the 2 million Scots who voted No in 2014, and the majority of people who now say they don’t want a second referendum."

The Tories also claim that the activist guide, available freely online and published as a separate document from the rest of the survey, does not include the standard "opt-out" disclaimer that the 2000 Act requires. They say this could breach data protection rules and have called on the Information Commissioner to look into the issue.

But Nationalists insist that Tory leader Ruth Davidson herself shared an image on twitter clearly containing the "data opt out."

SNP chief whip Bill Kidd added that all survey forms distributed to activists will contain a party political imprint.

He added: "The latest mince from the Tories is a baseless, time-wasting complaints to the Electoral Commission that have no basis in reality.

“For someone who constantly insists that she’s only interested in focusing on the big issues, Ms Davidson must be pretty embarrassed by this petty boomerang attack."