Exclusive – Police confirm Yes Scotland communications were “illegally accessed”

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  By a Newsnet reporter
 
A police investigation into alleged hacking of an email account linked to the Yes Scotland campaign is still on-going it has been confirmed.
 
Reports today in a national newspaper appeared to suggest that claims from the pro-independence group that its emails had been illegally accessed were baseless and that no evidence of hacking had been uncovered.

However Newsnet Scotland has learned that the hacking inquiry is indeed continuing and that the police have now narrowed the focus of their investigation down to a private email account belonging to a senior Yes Scotland member.

Speaking to Newsnet Scotland earlier today a spokeswoman for Police Scotland confirmed that attention had now turned to a private email account.

Newsnet Scotland understands that this account contained the communications believed to have fallen into the hands of a journalist who contacted Yes Scotland earlier this year asking questions.  However suspicions were aroused after the journalist unwittingly revealed information that had not been publicly disclosed by the pro-independence campaign group.

It subsequently emerged that electronic communications had been illegally accessed a complaint was made to the police who began a full investigation.

Following the publication of an article by the Herald newspaper in which it was claimed that no evidence of Yes Scotland emails being hacked had been found, Newsnet Scotland contacted Police Scotland to clarify the newspaper’s claims.

After a conversation with a spokeswoman, a statement was released on behalf of Detective Superintendent Steven Wilson, which read:

“A full and thorough investigation was carried out, however, no criminality linked to a ‘Yes Scotland’ email account has been established.”

However the statement then confirmed communications contained in a private email account linked to the pro-independence campaign group may have been illegally hacked and that an offence had been committed.

It added: “Police Scotland has investigated a complaint regarding unauthorised access to a private email account where communications with Yes Scotland were illegally accessed.

“Enquiries to date have revealed no indication that the access of this material was the primary motive of the culprit.   Yes Scotland has assisted Police Scotland at every stage of the enquiry which continues in relation to the offence committed against the private individual.”

A spokesman for Yes Scotland said: “Police Scotland has confirmed to us that enquiries are ongoing into the illegal hacking of a personal email account of a senior member of the Yes Scotland team.

“This account was being used for Yes Scotland business and there is no dispute that the information being unlawfully accessed from it related directly to Yes Scotland.  Indeed, the hacker used information hacked from this account to make direct contact with members of the Yes Scotland Advisory Board.”

Confirmation that hacking of communications linked to Yes Scotland has taken place and is still under investigation will prove embarrassing for the anti-independence campaign Better Together who today issued a statement blaming their rivals for an “extraordinary waste of police time”.

Speaking to the Herald, a spokesman for Better Together claimed the emails had in fact been deliberately leaked and said:

“Under serious pressure over the damaging allegations contained in the leaked emails, the First Minister implied media involvement in hacking the email accounts of the independence campaign and threatened serious repercussions for the media. Blair Jenkins then claimed they had been subject of a sinister criminal attack.

“The reality is this was a deliberate and cynical attempt to deflect attention away from the fact the Yes campaign had been caught deceiving Scots. This has been an extraordinary waste of police time.”

Newsnet Scotland has this morning asked Better Together head of communications Rob Shorthouse if the campaign group stands by the accusation that reporting the matter to police was a “waste of police time.”

Responding, Mr Shorthouse said: “We absolutely stand by our statement. There was one reason and one reason only why the Yes Campaign pushed this story in the way that they did.  It was to try and deflect away from the fact that they had been caught paying people to write nice things about them.”

MEANWHILE, in a separate blow to the No campaign, it has emerged that they have been rebuked for sending out hundreds of thousands of unsolicited text messages which told recipients that “We are stronger together”.

The story, originally broken by Newsnet Scotland but ignored by the Scottish media, saw people sent the messages which asked the how they intended to vote in the independence referendum.  In total the anti-independence campaign sent out 300,000 text messages but failed to get consent from recipients.

ICO Assistant Commissioner for Scotland, Ken Macdonald, said: “The Scottish referendum is an important issue, and we understand why both sides of the debate want to communicate with potential voters.  But it is absolutely crucial that they continue to do so in a manner that respects the rules that exist to protect consumers.

“If people consider the messages or calls they are receiving to be causing them a nuisance, there is a real danger that they will not only lose faith with the group who sent the message, but will lose interest in the entire process.  There’s no room to get this wrong and we hope the action taken against Better Together today sends out a warning that campaigners involved in the referendum debate must not unlawfully pester and annoy people with unwanted text messages.”