SNP tell Conservatives to “keep grubby hands off Scotland’s referendum”

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By a Newsnet reporter

The MP who led the campaign on Blair’s cash for honours scandal has told the Prime Minister to “keep the Tory Party’s grubby hands off Scotland’s referendum”.

Angus MacNeil, MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, has pointed out that the newly resigned Tory treasurer Peter Cruddas personally largely financed the Tory Party’s campaign against the alternative vote through a donation of £1.2 million.

Mr Cruddas hurriedly resigned as Conservative co-treasurer late on Saturday night after the Sunday Times published a report and video allegedly showing Mr Cruddas offered access to senior Conservatives, including David Cameron, and influence on Conservative policy making, to business people prepared to make substantial donations to the party.

According to the Sunday Times, Mr Cruddas was led to believe that any prospective donations from the paper’s undercover reporters, who had told Mr Cruddas they were wealth fund executives, would come from Liechtenstein and so would be ineligible under election law.  The law specifies that political donations over £500 must come from a person registered to vote in the UK, or a UK registered company.

However Mr Cruddas is alleged to have discussed the possibility of the reporters creating a British subsidiary company and to use UK employees of that company in order to channel their putative donation and circumvent the law.

The Conservative party and Mr Cruddas have denied that there was any wrongdoing.  The party has promised to hold an investigation into the affair.

In the meeting with undercover journalists from the Sunday Times Mr Cruddas also revealed that he had an interest in Scotland’s referendum on independence, and had already discussed it with Prime Minister David Cameron.  Reportedly the pair referred to Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond as “the mad Scotsman”.

The revelation that a senior figure within the Conservative party was allegedly prepared to circumvent the law in order to raise donations from abroad will be of deep concern to people in Scotland.  It raises the alarming possibility that the anti-independence campaign could be funded in part by inadmissible donations from overseas, and means that Scots cannot have confidence in the Conservative anti-independence campaign until there has been a thorough investigation into Mr Cruddas’ dealings on behalf of the party.

Angus MacNeil said:

“These are dramatic revelations. It shows that Peter Cruddas, the man who financed the scuppering of the AV referendum, was already lining up with Cameron against the Scottish referendum.

“These devastating revelations show that under no circumstances should we allow Westminster involvement in running our referendum. The tightest rules on spending must be set in Scotland by the Scottish Parliament.

“Otherwise we will find Tories like Peter Cruddas raising money from Liechtenstein to attempt to buy the poll.

“We should tell Cameron to keep the Tory Party’s grubby hands off Scotland’s referendum.”