The Sunday Herald has reported that new Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson may have broken electoral law, the Electoral Commission has ordered a “case review” while it looks into the affair.
This Commission’s investigation follows Davidson apparently failing to abide by the legally-binding 30-day deadline for reporting donations, the sum involved is said to be almost £15,000.
An Electoral Commission spokesperson confirmed the opening of a case review for “potential late reporting of donations to Ruth Davidson on 29th November 2011.”
In total the Electoral Commission is looking into the failure to declare £14,500 of donations to her leadership campaign as required by law. James Stewart donated £2000 to her campaign and a further £12,500 was donated by wealthy Tory donor Brian Gillies – these two sums are the focus of the Commission’s enquiry.
Electoral Commission records show the former BBC Scotland reporter declared four campaign donations totaling £29,500 – greatly helping her win, by a narrow margin, the Conservative Holyrood group leadership race on November 4th, 2011.
According to the Electoral Commission database, she received two donations on September 19th but did not report the sums until November 21st – well after the leadership race, and more than a month after the legal deadline for reporting donations.
The enquiry comes in the context of the other three candidates for the Conservative leadership having demanded an independent probe into whether Davidson’s campaign had received unfair help from the party hierarchy – Davidson was reported to be the favourite of the Tory hierarchy.
Speaking to the Sunday Herald, John Lamont MSP, Davidson’s leadership campaign manager said: “There was an error made. As soon as we identified it, we rectified it and informed the Electoral Commission. It is right that they ask for details and we continue to work closely with them on it.”
The investigation process may last up to three months with Davidson being interviewed about the money should the Commission deem it necessary.
Failure to declare donations on time is an offence in law punishable by a fine of up to £5000.