5 October 2015 ; How do SNP vet their candidates?’: Scots Tory leader Ruth Davidson demands explanation over suspended MP Michelle Thomson
Tory leader in Scotland Ruth Davidson last night called for an explanation over the SNP’s candidate selection and vetting procedures in light of the Michelle Thomson property scandal. Davidson said there was a question over the integrity of the SNP’s MP candidate selection, while Scottish Labour said “real questions” had to be asked about the selection of the Edinburgh West MP. http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/politics/how-snp-vet-candidates-scots-6576022
Advice for Davidson
But Ruth Davidson should look to the poor behaviour within her own party. Tory in Scotland association members vetting procedures excluded Ruth (who had only been around for 6 months at a higher level working for Annabel) from running for the leadership following on from the Tory Central Office’s forced retiral of Annabelle Goldie. David Cameron, Mundell and the party in Westminster overruled the Scots and ordered that Davidson would be included on the ballot for the Tory party in Scotland leadership effectively screwing poor Murdo Fraser whose ambitions were strangled at birth. The story and subsequent calamitous outcome follows:
2011: Ruth Davidson – Takes charge and makes it clear to the Conservative Party in Scotland she wears the trousers
Ruth Davidson 35y, graduated from Edinburgh University and worked as a BBC journalist until 2009 at which time she left employment to attend Glasgow University to study International Development. She joined the Conservative Party, and was a candidate in the Glasgow North East constituency at a 2009 by-election and at the 2010 general election, finishing in respectively 3rd and 4th place, with approximately 5% of the vote. From early 2010 to March 2011 she worked as the head of the private office of the then Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie. In the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, she stood for election in the Glasgow Kelvin constituency and on the Glasgow Regional list. She finished in 4th place in the former, but was successful in the latter, and following party leader Annabel Goldie’s resignation in May 2011, she stood in the subsequent leadership election which she won and was declared party leader on 4 November 2011.
9 September 2011: Ruth Davidson draws a “line in the sand” on the constitution by promising “NO MORE DEVOLUTION” no more powers for Holyrood if she wins Scottish Tory leadership.
At the official launch of her campaign she said “The time for arguing about the powers the people want is over. It’s time now to use the powers that we have. “the range of powers included in the Coalition Government’s Scotland Bill is the final word on devolution. When the referendum is done and Scotland and the Union has won the day, that will be an end to it.” She added: “Under my leadership, there will be no existential crisis, no wringing of hands. Instead I want people to call themselves Scottish, Conservative and Unionist.”
9 October 2011: Leadership race for the Scottish Tories mired in claims of bias in favour of Central Office candidate Ruth Davidson
Ruth Davidson suffered a blow to her credibility when it emerged she faced hostility from party activists in what should have been safe home turf in Glasgow. All five party chairmen in Glasgow pledged their support to other candidates.
The least experienced of the four candidates for the leadership, the 32-year-old was promoted as the favourite of the Tory establishment, with backing from Thatcher-era grandees Lord Forsyth, Lord Sanderson, and the sole Scots Tory MP, David Mundell.
Her campaign was plagued by gaffes and rumours that she received unofficial help from the Conservative Party hierarchy. She was also ordered to sack her parliamentary assistant Ross McFarlane after he was caught on camera drunkenly burning a European Union flag in a Glasgow Street as a companion made sectarian remarks.
In a further unwanted development the Director of media, Ramsay Jones, was suspended from his duties when it was revealed that he attended a meeting of campaign strategists at Davidson’s home, despite being ordered by the party chairman not to take sides and remain impartial. Her camp insisted there was nothing untoward about the visit which required Jones to make a 150-mile round trip from his home in Dunbar, East Lothian, on a Sunday during the campaign.
Malcolm Macaskill, a former Holyrood candidate, claimed Jones had previously boasted he was a “big fan” of Davidson and had recruited her to the party about three years before. He said “I was disappointed to hear he may have been supporting Ruth Davidson’s campaign for leader. That would be wholly unprofessional. But it is no surprise, as Ramsay stated to me he was a big fan of Ruth and he had been responsible for bringing her into the party.”
Macaskill, a member of the Scottish Tories for 35 years had been the Tories’ No 1 candidate on the Glasgow list for Holyrood. but in a surprise move was deselected by the party hierarchy shortly before the election. His removal meant Davidson, who was running Goldie’s Holyrood office, moved to the top of the list. Without the switch, Davidson would not have been elected as a list MSP for Glasgow.
30 October 2011: TORY LEADERSHIP CANDIDATE RUTH DAVIDSON, under pressure after claiming on television to be committed to Scotland while failing to mention she was shortlisted to become an MP in England.
(talk about careerist Polititian, this seat, that seat, ANY seat’ll do). In a hustings broadcast by Newsnight Scotland last week, Davidson claimed never to have wanted to work outside her native land. She said: “I have lived and worked my entire life in Scotland. Never been anywhere else, never wished to be. I’m Scottish to my bones.”
However, only last year, Davidson was one of six figures shortlisted to be a Tory candidate for Bromsgrove, south of Birmingham. The English seat had been left vacant by the exit of sitting MP Julie Kirkbride, who chose not to stand again after a row over her expenses. After local members in Bromsgrove chose Sajid Javid, Davidson stood for the Tories in Glasgow North East instead, a seat she had contested the previous year in a Westminster by-election. She went on to slip from third place to fourth in Glasgow North East at the general election. Davidson’s spokesman said she had been put on the shortlist by Conservative Central Office in London.
Asked if she attended any selection meetings in Bromsgrove, her spokesman said Davidson “went down to see them” out of “courtesy”.
After the election, Davidson tried unsuccessfully to become the Tory candidate for the Holyrood seats of Edinburgh Central and North East Fife. She finally found a berth as candidate for Glasgow Kelvin, where she came fourth in May’s election after the Tory share of the vote fell. Davidson, a former BBC reporter who joined the party less than three years ago, was then elected as a Glasgow list MSP.
Her Bromsgrove link is understood to have irked many Tory activists in Glasgow and contributed to her lack of support in the city in the contest.The 32-year-old failed to win the backing of any of the five Conservative association chairmen/women in the city, or Glasgow’s only Tory councillor, David Meikle, or the former Glasgow MSP Bill Aitken. The Bromsgrove episode appears to have been airbrushed from Davidson’s website and CV.
4 November 2011: Ruth Davidson is the new Conservative Party in Scotland leader
Ruth Davidson has been voted leader of the Scottish Conservative Party. She won by 2983 votes over Murdo Fraser’s 2417. She said on being elected “A political party is not a leader. A political party is its membership and I want to bring our members at all levels much closer together to take our party forward in unity”.
First Minister Alex Salmond was among the first to congratulate her on becoming Leader. He said: “I wish her well. My own view is that Annabel Goldie was a highly successful leader for the Conservatives in Scotland, and maximised the Tory vote here. That merely underlines the scale of the task for Ruth Davidson in motivating her party – as does the number of Scottish Tory members who actually voted in this contest, (5,400) and the fact that her main opponent proposed winding up the party. Hopefully, under Ruth’s leadership, the Tories will change their attitude to Scotland and start to work in the country’s best interests.”
7 November 2011: Davidson Scottish Tory’s subservient to Westminster
In her first official act the new Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson confirmed that she did not urge David Cameron to alter the Scotland Bill in order to reflect Scottish public opinion. Her position, bowing to London on the constitution emerged after she met with her party boss in Downing Street. She went on to stress her pleasure in meeting the Prime Minister and signalled that she would not adopt any policy positions which he might disapprove of.
She further stated that she had a mandate to speak for Scotland, claiming that the Coalition parties received more votes in Scotland at the UK general election than the SNP did in their historic victory in May.
The SNP immediately leapt on her claim, and issued a statement pointing out that the SNP received 902,915 votes in May 2011, 45.4% of the popular vote, whereas in May 2010 the Conservatives and Lib Dems together received a total of 878,326 votes, or 35.6%.
She then implied that she supported moves for Westminster to seize control of the timing and question of a referendum on Scotland’s place within the UK, a position taken by Michael Forsyth, a prominent supporter of Ms Davidson’s leadership bid. She claimed that the democratically elected majority Scottish government may “rig” the vote and that this would not be tolerated. She dismissed support for greater Scottish autonomy as “nationalist shennanigans”.
Commenting on the statement, SNP MSP Derek MacKay said:
“This is a real blunder by Ruth Davidson, continuing her bad start as the new Tory leader in Scotland.
“After talking big about David Cameron coming to Scotland and not being her leader, Ruth Davidson’s first act is a day trip to London where David Cameron is her boss, thus revealing the truth about Ruth’s leadership – the Tories remain the same London-led party, and they will continue to be rejected by the people of Scotland.
“She has also been caught out in a clear statistical fiddle. Far more people voted for the SNP this year than voted for the coalition parties at the UK General Election last year, and we also got a much higher share of the vote than these two parties combined – which came third and fourth in Scotland last year, behind the SNP. If Ruth cannot tell the truth about the dismal electoral state of the Tories in Scotland, and their Lib Dem hangers on, then she clearly doesn’t appreciate the scale of the challenge facing her – which at least Murdo Fraser showed an appreciation of.
“The inconvenient truth for the Tories is that the referendum, which will be held in the second half of this parliament, is a matter for Holyrood to scrutinise and deliver – not Westminster; it is part of the resounding Scottish democratic mandate achieved by the SNP in May. If the Tories and other Westminster parties have difficulty grasping that very basic concept, it is a good illustration of why they are so badly out of touch with the aspirations of the people of Scotland.
“The SNP Government have always made it clear that we are entirely willing to include a ‘devo-max’ option in the referendum. And a majority for independence on a straight Yes or No question will deliver independence – according to the democratic wishes of the people – and we are confident of success in securing a Yes vote.
“We know from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey that a strong majority, 74 per cent, of people believe that the Scottish Government should have the most influence over how Scotland is run, compared with just 16 per cent who think it ought to be the UK Government.
“Just days into Ruth Davidson’s new leadership, the Tories continue to be on the wrong side of the argument in Scotland.”
David Cameron’s Statement:
“I am proud that it is the UK Government which is enacting a new Scotland Bill which will transfer significant extra powers to Holyrood and place the responsibility for raising billions of pounds of public spending in the hands of the Scottish Parliament. This will meet the demands of the Scottish people for more say over how Scotland is run and clear the way for a straightforward and clear-cut referendum on ‘yes or no’ to Scotland in Britain. I pledge myself to campaign to keep our United Kingdom and challenge Alex Salmond to set the date and to agree the question now.”
8 November 2011: Scottish Conservative businessman and financial donor John McGlynn attacks the election of new Tory leader Ruth Davidson
“Ruth has to prove she is capable of coming up with ideas and policies that will resonate with the people of Scotland in the way that Murdo Fraser did and she has to prove that the Tory Party has learned the lessons of electoral defeat.”
Mr McGlynn went on to express his anger at the way in which Mr Macaskill had been removed from the Glasgow Regional list and the interference in the leadership election process by Tory Head Office and said he and other financial donors had made no decision on future donations, but he added that he “wanted to support” the party. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-15635686
25 March 2011: The Scottish Tory party was plunged into pre–election turmoil last night when key donors were reported to have withdrawn their support from the party after the unwarranted sacking of Malcolm Macaskill
Senior party sources claimed last night that wealthy donors – believed to include Tom Coakley, a former footballer turned millionaire property developer and John McGlynn, an airport car park magnate – had told officials they would no longer contribute to party funds after Malcolm Macaskill, a Glasgow businessman and justice of the peace, was removed from the top slot on the Tories’ Glasgow list by Andrew Fulton, the party chairman.
Mr Macaskill, who was virtually guaranteed a seat in the Holyrood elections on May 5, was kicked out by Mr Fulton, a former MI5 official. Mr Fulton made no mention of the reason for the dismissal, merely saying Mr Macaskill had been dropped “following discussions between the candidate and the party’s candidates’ board”.
The chairman thanked Mr Macaskill for his service and announced that Ruth Davidson, a close aide of Annabel Goldie and a former BBC producer, would be placed at number one on the list.
There was undisguised anger from Mr Macaskill’s supporters at his treatment last night. One senior party figure said: “This is outrageous. Malcolm has served the Conservatives loyally for over 30 years and is treated like this.”
Mr Macaskill was responsible for recruiting several wealthy donors, including Mr Coakley, a former professional footballer with Dundee FC who subsequently made his fortune buying and selling property in London’s Mayfair.
Estimated to be worth £70million, Mr Coakley announced two months ago that he would donate £100,000 per year for the next 10 years to Scottish Tory coffers. However, a senior Tory with close links to the situation said last night: “Mr Coakley is furious and he has told the Tories that he will no longer be making any donations.”
The same source said Mr McGlynn, whose companies own airport car parks all over Europe, and who also donates funds to the party, may also withhold future donations. Last night, Mr McGlynn said “This is outrageous. to penalise someone in this way is completely wrong.
An SNP spokesman said it was the “worst possible” start to the Tory campaign, adding: “The first day and they have lost one of their top candidates, amid party infighting and internal allegations of malpractice. The Tories are not fit for purpose, fit for Glasgow, or fit for Scotland.”
29 March 2011: Tory Party’s Holyrood election campaign in disarray after a third candidate steps down, this time as a regional list hopeful.
David Meikle withdrew in Glasgow because he felt that his allegations of vote rigging on the list for the city had not been sufficiently investigated. His complaints centre on the Conservative Rutherglen’s Association, whose membership shot up by about 150 members from a starting point of 17 in the months before the selections for Conservative lists
Mr MacAskill’s, who has been removed from the top of the Glasgow list will be replaced by Ruth Davidson, a former BBC journalist, this means she is likely to become an MSP.
Miss Goldie admitted that she did not have any say in the departure of Mr MacAskill. The Tory hierarchy in London, who are directing the campaign are said to be delighted with the way it is being run north of the Border.
The Tories also insist their budget for the 5 May election is in place despite reports that wealthy donors, including former Dundee FC footballer and property magnate Tom Coakley and airport car park magnate John McGlynn, had withdrawn their funding.
13 November 2011: Talkin’ ’bout Ruth’s generation
Tory leader Ruth Davidson cast herself as the face of “generational change” during the party’s recent leadership race. But what kind of generation is currently coming through the Scots Tories? Judging by some of the senior members of the Glasgow University Conservative Association (Hon Pres: R Davidson), it could be rather interesting. This fascinating photo shows Ruth with a number of Glasgow University Conservative Association (GUCA) celebrating her election as a Glasgow list MSP in May.
The blonde chap kneeling in front with arms aloft is Ross McFarlane, her election agent and GUCA president. She later sacked him as her Holyrood assistant when mobile phone after footage emerged of him drunkenly burning an EU flag in a street while a companion made sectarian remarks about referee Hugh Dallas and the Pope. The incident took place after a St Andrew’s Day dinner (30 November 2010) last year. Ms Davidson had attended the dinner together with guest speaker, UKIP MEP Roger Helmer.
Meanwhile, the poker-faced chap on the right of the photo with the square lapel badge is Stewart Green, the GUCA webmaster. He apologised after posting a number of dodgy Tweets about race, including one comparing an Asian festival to cats being strangled.
Stewart Green, a parliamentary assistant to David Burrowes MP, was forced to stand down after after calling feminists “whingeing imbeciles” who “need a good slap round the face”. making a series of sexist and bigoted remarks on Facebook. Green told his Facebook friends he was “sick to the back teeth” of “wretched women MPs who seem to be constantly going on about there not being enough women in frontline politics”. He added: “This country has been a gradual decline southwards towards the dogs ever since we started cow-towing to the cretinous pseudo-equality demand of these whinging [sic] imbeciles.”
In another post last year, Green described an incident in which he offered a seat to a woman on a bus but was refused. Referring to the woman as a “fat ginger b****,” he added: “I am absolutely sick and tired of this feminism nonsense. It really has gone too far. “Quite a few of these women need a good slap round the face.” In another recent post on the social networking site, Green applauded proposals to close BBC3, saying that “all it seems to do is prop up the common scum lifestyle”.
And finally, the dark-haired guy with the blue shirt and blue tie immediately above McFarlane is Colin James Taylor, a former GUCA president, who works for the Tory Press and Research Unit at Holyrood. He posted song lyrics on Twitter glorifying Northern Irish terrorist group, the Ulster Volunteer Force. He also referred to Celtic Football Club as “tims” on the popular blogging website. Rangers fan Taylor, from Belfast, used the Twitter name “Ulsterexile” to post offensive remarks while studying at Glasgow University, where he was president of the student Conservative Association (GUCA) from 2009 to 2010.
On Saturday, February 19, this year he posted lines from a notorious song, Here Lies a Soldier, about a UVF member awaiting execution. “Don’t bury me, in Erin’s Fenian vallies [sic]. Oh take me home, to Ulster let me rest …” he wrote. Although he did not tweet the rest of the verse, it runs: “And on my gravestone carve a simple message, Here lies a soldier of the UVF.”
On that weekend, the UVF was much in the news as Northern Ireland awaited publication of a police ombudsman report into one of the terrorist group’s worst atrocities, the bombing of McGurk’s Bar in Belfast in 1971, which killed 15 people and injured 16. The report, published 48 hours after Taylor’s tweet, revealed that the Royal Ulster Constabulary wrongly blamed the IRA for the attack. The bombing was the worst during theTroubles until the Omagh bomb killed 29 people in 1998.
Taylor’s tweet also fell on the eve of the anniversary of the 1979 conviction of the notorious Shankhill Butchers, the ultra-Loyalist gang, many in the UVF, who tortured Catholic civilians and murdered at least 30 people.
On April 17, the day that Aberdeen and Celtic met in the Scottish Cup semi-final, Taylor posted on Twitter: “Hope the sheep absolutely hump the tims today.” Tim is a term of anti-Catholic abuse. The anti-sectarian group Nil By Mouth said: “People have to realise that online bigotry is unacceptable.”
Taylor’s case has highlighted Davidson’s ties to Glasgow University Conservative Association. According to GUCA’s website, she is the body’s honorary president. She attended its annual dinner on Friday. After the Sunday Herald alerted the Tories about the matter, Taylor’s Twitter and Facebook accounts disappeared.
Last week, leading QC Paul McBride quit the Tories over the party’s hostility to an SNP bill aimed at tackling sectarianism in football.
28 November 2011: Roger Helmer (UKIP) MEP Reports all is well with the Conservative Party in Scotland under Ruth Davidson’s management
I was invited to speak at the Glasgow University Conservative Association St. Andrews dinner, in the Bridie Library in the Students’ Union.
Arriving in Glasgow around lunch-time, I was able to visit the Glasgow School of Art (Charles Rennie Mackintosh), and see their current “Glasgow Girls” exhibition. Excellent – worth a visit. On then to the Willows tea-rooms in Sauciehall Street, again with a strong Mackintosh theme, where I was shown around by Rachel, a well-informed waitress at the Willows. Shortly after seven, a taxi delivered me to the Union, all done up in black tie (OK, well burgundy velvet in this case), Crombie coat and trilby hat, every lefty’s stereotype caricature of a Tory politician – and straight into a couple of dozen vociferous student protesters, chanting slogans about education cuts and “Tory Scum”.
I anticipated problems, but I had reckoned without two of Glasgow’s finest, in hi-viz tabards, who elbowed me through the riot and into the building. I understand that a much larger force arrived soon afterwards and removed the unwashed proletariat. The fracas on the pavement failed to deter sixty or so diners, who tucked into traditional Saint Andrews fare, Scotch broth, haggis with neeps & tatties, cranachan and port. The group included a couple of MSPs and a host of candidates for public office. Then it was time for me to sing for my supper, or at least propose the toast to Saint Andrew.
I have rarely met a more enthusiastic audience. I mentioned Dan Hannan, and they burst into spontaneous applause. I commended the Daily Express “Get Britain Out of the EU” campaign, and they cheered to the echo. I spoke dismissively about climate hysteria, and they roared approval.
It’s worth mentioning that the Glasgow University Conservative Association, under the leadership of its President Ross MacFarlane, is no mere debating or social club. These are serious campaigners who have been pounding the streets of Scotland on the Party’s behalf. These are the future of the Conservative Party. And like so many Conservatives they’ve had enough of the EU, and they want out. They’ve also lost patience with the global warming lobby. They don’t believe it, and they won’t pay for it.
My fear is that the Party’s high command has simply failed to notice the way the wind is blowing. I wonder just how long David Cameron can lead us deeper into the EU, and into the battle for “climate mitigation”, before he notices that the troops aren’t following behind. He risks becoming dangerously exposed.
12 December 2011: The true racist face of the Scottish Consrvative & Unionist Party
The new leader of Scotland’s Tories, Ruth Davidson, has faced a tricky first month since taking the reins on 4th November. During her electoral campaign, she had to sack her parliamentary assistant Ross McFarlane, after video footage sufaced of him setting fire to a flag of the European Union, whilst dressed in a University of Glasgow gown. The incident took place after a dinner organised by the Glasgow University Conservative Association (GUCA). As MacFarlane, accompanied by two others, lit the flag, sectarian abuse could clearly be heard, including the derogatory term “tarrier” and claims that the pope was a paedophile. Unfortunately for Davidson, this was not the only time her allies have taken part in sectarian behaviour.
In the honorary president of GUCA’s first week as national leader of the party, it emerged that Colin Taylor, of the Tory press and research unit, tweeted lyrics from the song “Here Lies a Soldier”, which sings the praises of the Ulster Volunteer Force, an anti-Catholic Northern Irish terrorist group. In his tweets, under the name @Ulsterexile, Taylor also casually refers to “tims” another offensive name for Catholics. The account has since disappeared. As embarrassing as such behaviour may have been for Davidson, it was her response to Taylor’s tweets that has earned her the most criticism. Taylor was allowed to keep his position, his punishment for his behaviour being no more than a “formal warning.” Labour MSPs have called this “insufficient” and demanded more “disciplinary proceedings.”
Peter Kearney, of the Catholic Media Office, said: “The Catholic Church in Scotland condemns in the strongest possible terms any sectarian behaviour or criminality, from any quarter whatsoever, as having no place in a civilised society.” These sectarian incidents come at a time when the ruling SNP tries to pass its anti-sectarianism bill, which would see much tougher punishments dealt to those who make sectarian comments at football grounds and, like Mr Taylor, through social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Scottish Tory objection to the bill led to the prominent criminal QC Paul McBride quitting the party, just one week before Taylor’s tweets became public knowledge.
And when it’s not sectarianism damaging the Scottish Conservatives’ reputation, it’s been racism, particularly that of Stewart Green, site designer of the current GUCA website and editor of the “Tory Hoose” blog. Green was one third of the drunken trio involved in the burning of the EU flag and in September it emerged that he had made several racist remarks online, including one tweet which read: “An Asian festival is taking place a few doors up, either that or several cats are being strangled. Can’t quite decide which.”
Other subjects of his racist abuse include Jewish, Pakistani and black students. This collection of sectarian and racist comments from her peers seems to go against what Davidson said to the Glasgow Guardian in November, when she told the paper: “I have said Conservatives never get enough credit for how progressive they can be.”
Those who stand against the Tories in Holyrood, however, argue that the behaviour of Davidson’s colleagues shows her party to be rooted in its old, “Bullingdon Club” ways. The SNP referred to the exclusive Oxford University club, of which prime minister, and supporter of Davidson during her campaign, David Cameron was a member. An SNP spokesman described the behaviour of Davidson’s party members as: “Bullingdon Club behaviour which has no place in Scottish politics.”
And things don’t seem to be getting any better for the 33-year-old leader. It emerged last week that members of the St Andrews University Conservative Association burned an effigy of US president Barak Obama on a St Andrew’s beach. As a result, the president of that association, Mathew Marshall, will apologise personally to Mr Obama by sending a letter to the White House. Marshall admits that the burning was “undoubtedly stupid.” He went on to say: “I apologise further for any damage this has done to the reputation of the University of St Andrews, or the Scottish Conservative Party.” Ruth Davidson, at least, will hope that that damage and the incidents before it have not left too big a stain on the party she is now responsible for cleaning up.
25 March 2012: Tories have heads in the sand – no place for an independent mind in the Scottish Tories?
There’s yet more trouble for Ruth Davidson, as veteran Tory financier and fundraiser since the mid-1970s, Peter de Vink denounced the party as “complete plonkers” for being hostile to independence and silencing debate on the issue. The Tory stalwart of the Scottish Conservatives, he had been selected to stand in Midlothian, but was “dismissed” for supporting an independent Scotland.
He said “Draconian measures” were taken to silence him and “stamp out internal debate”. Referring to leader Ruth Davidson, who said the current Scotland Bill should be a “line in the sand” for devolution, he said “the Tories are repeating the errors of the 1980s and 1990s, when they opposed a Scottish Parliament. I fear we are once again harking back to the old days where we draw a line in the sand on Scotland’s constitutional journey. The negative arguments of the current leadership will cause more Scots to support independence rather than vote against it, while leaving the party condemned to the pages of history. Here’s the party that stands for independence of views, freedom of speech, freedom of action, and yet we are so intolerant when it comes to this. They look complete plonkers. They look so inept. Ruth Davidson, she is so out of her depth it’s just a laugh.”
Mr de Vink, 71, had tried to make his points in a debate on the Union at the Tory conference, but was not called to speak. He said it was “ludicrous” the debate only heard from speakers in favour of the Union. After being blocked as a Tory candidate earlier this month, he is now standing as an Independent in the Midlothian East Ward in May instead.
Managing director of Edinburgh Financial & General Holdings, Mr de Vink said he had raised “huge sums” for the Tories down the years, but now “hated to think” how much. In 1988, he was a founder member of the Tory party’s Scottish Business Group alongside former coal board chairman Sir Alan MacGregor and the merchant banker Sir Angus Grossart.
Earlier this month he hosted a lunch for Alex Salmond at Edinburgh’s New Club, partly to confront the First Minister with his critics. Not long after “very senior” Tories made it plain he could no longer be a conservative candidate.
Explaining events he said “In the invitation to the lunch I said I had come to the conclusion that independence was actually a very attractive option for Scotland. Some people sent that to their friends in the higher ranks of the Tory party and they accused me of running with the hare and chasing with the hounds. I said, Bollocks, this is a local election, nothing to do with independence, but they said No.
So I became a victim of the cabal. They said I have to be a unionist to be a Conservative, which I think is barking mad. The Tory party is painting itself in again by absolutely dismissing independence just as they dismissed devolution. Look at what a pathetic party it has become, with one member of parliament at Westminster. I call that pathetic… always hankering back to the past.
Why not look to the future?” He said the main attraction of independence was financial. “Scotland can stand on its own feet and can earn what it spends and spend what it earns and it stops being a subsidy junky thanks to [the] Barnett [formula].
I think if we became independent we could start thinking out of the box. He said a flat tax (one tax rate regardless of income) could be introduced by a right-of-centre party. What I’m tryin to say its that it’s better to prepare for reality.I am almost convinced beyond reasonable doubt that we will have independence and when it comes then we are going to have missed the boat. That’s my message.”
In May 2012 he was elected an Independent Councillor in the former People’s Republic of Midlothian where by joining the SNP/Independent Coalition he was instrumental in ending a 84 year long Old Labour regime. He is now working in undoing some of the worst decisions the previous administration made especially the disastrous PPP Contracts and making sure that these calamities will not recur.
12 July 2012: Scots Tories ‘rotten to the core’, says ousted Holyrood candidate
Malcolm Macaskill, whose forced removal from the Glasgow list paved the way for new party leader Ruth Davidson to get to Holyrood, got the five-figure pay-out after threatening to sue over the Tories’ handling of his sacking. In an interview Macaskill blasted the Tory machine as “rotten to the core” and said the Scottish party was an “inept and morally corrupt” organisation.
Macaskill, a member of the Scottish Tories for 35 years, had been top of the party’s Glasgow list for the 2011 Holyrood poll – almost guaranteeing him a seat in Parliament. However, days before the start of the campaign, party bosses removed him from the list amid allegations of historical financial problems. Davidson took his place on the list and was subsequently elected to Holyrood and then as party leader.
Following the election, Macaskill served notice on Davidson that he intended seeking a judicial review of his dismissal. He further insisted party rules did not contain a provision to remove a list candidate and the party had acted unconstitutionally. Discussions between lawyers resulted in an out-of-court agreement (payment of a five figure sum to Macaskill).
Macaskill, (confirming he had quit the party) said: “All I ever wanted from the party was an apology. An admission that they were wrong in removing me from the list and that they had failed to follow their own procedures but this was never forthcoming. I have now decided that I’ve had enough of the Tory Party. Over the past year, the treatment that I have been subjected to, along with the evidence that I have gathered, has convinced me that the party machine in and around Edinburgh central office is rotten to the core.
Some have suggested that there was perhaps always a greater plan. In dismissing me, the next in line on the regional list was Ruth Davidson, who had earlier failed to be selected as a constituency candidate in other parts of Scotland. History shows that not only was Ruth elected in my stead, but she also went on to become the party leader in Scotland. I know of hundreds of people who will never vote Tory again and I no longer wish to remain a member of such an inept and morally corrupt organisation.”
8 October 2012: Tory conference: Scottish leader Ruth Davidson in pro-UK rallying call
Addressing the conference she said:
* “It is staggering that public sector expenditure takes up 50% of Scotland’s GDP”.
* “only 12% of households contribute to Scotland’s wealth. I wonder how many of them work on public sector contracts. It’s not just staggering, it’s frightening”.
* “I believe Scotland should expand its private sector building prosperity and increasing opportunity”.
* “The restraints of government diktat should be removed so that people would be enabled to lift themselves out of dependency”.
* “So little moves in Scotland without government approval and anyone who dares challenge the status quo is deemed an enemy of the state. This must change”.
* “Scottish political commentators are indecently keen to write the Conservative Party off in Scotland. Perhaps because they are comfortable with the status quo”.
* “But the system of patronage is rotten since it has created a corrosive sense of entitlement which suits its political gang-masters denying many real choices in their lives”.
8 October 2012: Scotland’s Tory leader has got her sums hopelessly wrong on the economy
It is not uncommon to find statistics of dubious quality presented to party political conferences. However, even by the less than rigorous standards that seem to apply at these events, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson’s claim that only 12% of Scottish households “make a net contribution to the economy” is quite remarkable. By way of supporting analysis, all Tory HQ have seen fit to publish is one brief Excel spreadsheet which desperately needs some narrative explanation. It is not an impressive document.
Let’s start with the basics: all the information sources cited are out of date. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures from the Effects of Taxes and Benefits on Household Income publication are drawn from the 2009/10 release; strange because the 2010/11 data have been available since June this year.
Similarly, data from the joint Scottish government/ONS publication, Public Sector Employment in Scotland is taken from the Q1 2012 publication and not the Q2 data published a month ago. This explains why the figures for public sector employment used in the calculation are wrong; currently 22.2% (23.5% if RBS and HBOS workers are included) of all Scottish workers are employed in the public sector, not 23.8%.
Davidson’s calculation also references the ONS data on income for all households. In doing so, she commits the Romney-esque error of failing to account for retired people. This is either lazy or deliberately misleading because the ONS provides such a breakdown in the very document she cites. The income of non-retired households is significantly higher than that for all households and would lead to very different findings.
Hilariously, at a time when Davidson’s party is campaigning hard for an end to Scotland’s universal benefits such as free bus travel for OAPs, free prescriptions and free personal care, the calculation assumes that the distribution in Scotland of “household income, benefits and taxes is the same as that of UK households”. It isn’t. In Scotland, those in the upper income brackets are recipients of additional spend that is lost in her analysis.
Also, the process by which Davidson’s colleagues have tortured the Government expenditure and revenue in Scotland (Gers) data to settle on average benefits and public spend per household figures is, to put it kindly, somewhat vague.
Of course all this is a helpful distraction from the economic and social devastation her Westminster colleagues are visiting on the Scottish and UK economies. It also reflects an embarrassingly naive view about the nature of economic development in any advanced nation where public and private sectors must interact to generate sustainable growth.
The facts of the matter are that Scotland’s public spending to GDP ratio is only slightly better or worse than that of the UK as a whole depending on whether or not a geographical share of oil revenues is included in the calculation. Many of the most enduringly successful economies in the world manage to sustain public spending and public sector employment ratios at similar or higher levels.
Davidson’s grand idea that removal of “government diktat” is necessary to unleash Scotland’s pent-up private sector potential is simply risible. Labour and product markets are regulated on a UK-wide basis and the evidence is unequivocal; Scotland is a good place to do business. Which is why our banks were at the epicentre of the banking crisis. But that is another story.
9 October 2012: Former Tory minister Lord Forsyth has criticised his party’s Scottish leader over her claims only 12% of households contribute to Scotland’s wealth.
Lord Forsyth said “I think perhaps Ruth Davidson ought to have been more careful with her comments. She’s new and a little inexperienced and one of the things one learns over the years is it’s always unwise to comment on something if you haven’t heard it and if you haven’t heard it in context.” her suggestion that those on the public sector payroll were dependent on the state could have been phrased a bit better. We are talking here about doctors and nurses and so on, they spend their money, they pay VAT. So, I think it is an unfortunate way of presenting it.”
10 October 2012: Ruth Davidson must apologise for pensioner insult
Ruth Davidson has been challenged to outline how much more money she thinks should be taken from pensioners, whom she this week falsely claimed were not ‘net contributors’ to Scotland, in light of the fact that Tory policies are already taking hundreds of pounds from the pockets of pensioners. With independent research published earlier this year showing that Tory policies announced in the Budget will leave pensioners £900 worse off by the end of 2014, Ms Davidson’s ill-judged comments have raised the prospect of tougher financial hardship being inflicted on Scotland’s older people if she had her way. Glasgow SNP MSP Bob Doris has now written to Ruth Davidson to remind her of the money that her party is already taking from Scotland’s pensioners, and demanding that she apologise for insulting them by saying they do not ‘contribute’ to society. http://www.snp.org/media-centre/news/2012/oct/ruth-davidson-must-apologise-pensioner-insult
9 October 2012: Ruth Davidson’s stoking up a political disaster
Ruth Davidson’s suggestion, made during an appearance at a fringe event in Birmingham this week, that, in effect, most Scots spend their lives suckling on the government teat is not, I’m afraid, a helpful one. According to the Tory leader: “It is staggering that public-sector expenditure makes up a full 50 per cent of Scotland’s GDP and only 12 per cent of people are net contributors, where the taxes they pay outweigh the benefits they receive through public spending.” It is staggering and perhaps also frightening if the Tory leader really believes the public can so easily be divided into the Bad (88%) and the Good (12%) in this fashion.
If nothing else Davidson -should remember that her own career has hardly been a model of private-sector entrepreneurial vigour. The Tory leader has drawn pay checks from the Territorial Army, the BBC, the Conservative Party and, now, of course, the public purse as an MSP. None of these – not even Holyrood – are wholly disreputable places in which to work but, by her stated standard, none are “responsible for generating Scotland’s wealth”. That’s not good politics; it’s a disaster.
5 November 2012: More and more blunders from Ruth Davidson
Ruth Davidson has marked the one year anniversary of her error-strewn time in office with a spectacularly misjudged call to cut over £1 billion from Scotland’s budget. She previously stated that the Barnett Formula will be “reviewed” if there is a No vote in 2014, revealing the Tories’ willingness to bring in even more savage cuts to Scotland’s budget. http://www.snp.org/media-centre/news/2012/nov/davidson-gaffe-reveals-plan-%C2%A31bn-budget-cut
17 February 2013: Scottish Conservatives accused of “hypocritical posturing” for opposing wind farms when three of their MSPs stand to profit from them
It has been revealed, in the latest register of MSPs’ interests, that Jamie McGrigor, the party’s’ environment spokesman, Alex Fergusson, the Scottish Parliament’s former presiding officer, and John Scott, the current deputy presiding officer, are to receive a substantial annual income from wind turbines on or near their land.
But a report launched by the party leader, Ruth Davidson MSP, demanded a big cut in the number of wind farms planned on land, and for wind subsidies to be slashed by 50 per cent. It also called for councils to be given the power to impose a one-year moratorium on any new wind turbines. Political opponents and environmental groups say that the 3 amigo’s provision of land for wind farms conflicts with the new anti-wind farm policy adopted by the Scottish Conservatives.
Pointing out that renewable energy offered Scotland massive investment and thousands of jobs Chic Brodie, a member of the parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee said:
“This hypocrisy from the Tories is a classic case of do as I say, not as I do. They might be vocal opponents of Scotland’s renewable energy potential in public these days, but they remain perfectly content to personally profit from wind turbines.”
* McGrigor, the Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands, received an initial fee of £5,000 and is now expecting to be paid between £5,000 and £6,000 a year for 20 wind turbines planned by the German power company, RWE, on his Ardchonnel sheep farm, near Dalmally in Argyll.
* Fergusson, the Conservative MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries, gets between £40,000 and £45,000 a year from 52 wind turbines run by Scottish and Southern Energy on his land at Hadyard Hill in South Ayrshire.
* Scott, the Conservative MSP for Ayr, has a deal which enables Spanish-owned Scottish Power to use his farm near Girvan to access its 60-turbine Arecleoch wind farm in South Ayrshire. The deal is understood to be worth more than £5,000 a year.
Dr Richard Dixon, the director of Friends of the Earth Scotland said:
“The Tories are clearly divided over wind farms. They should give up the narrow anti-wind agenda being promoted by a few prominent party members. There is little to be gained by drawing up policy statements in secret and to the exclusion of key stakeholders. Most people in Scotland think wind farms are a good thing. Anyone who believes that anti-wind policies will significantly boost the Tories’ electoral fortunes is making a big mistake.”
Niall Stuart, the chief executive of the industry body, Scottish Renewables, said:
“I hope those conservative MSPs who have first-hand knowledge of the sector can perhaps explain to their colleagues that onshore wind is the cheapest and one of the most effective sources of renewable electricity we have.”
Murdo Fraser, Conservative MSP and Chairman of the the parliament’s energy committee said:
“the committee will be debating the Scottish government’s targets to boost renewable energy but it is my conclusion the targets are “achievable”.
A party spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives insisted that there was “no problem” with wind farms as long as they were appropriately sited with the agreement of local communities.
1 March 2013: Scotland’s gay Tory leader Ruth Davidson splits from her partner
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has split up with her partner of five years Saskia Halcrow. Like many couples with hectic working lives, they simply grew apart. Ruth is very sad about the split but it is a mutual thing and both want to remain good friends. Although the majority of Scottish MPs support marriage equality, the Scottish Conservative Party remains largely opposed, with only Ms Davidson and her Deputy Jackson Carlaw registering their support in a June 2012 survey.
8 April 2013: Thatcher’s death, Ruth Davidson pays tribute to ‘a true revolutionary’
She said: “Baroness Thatcher was a true Conservative revolutionary, challenging out-dated institutions, confronting vested interests and transforming Britain into a property-owning democracy. She empowered millions of people in a way that was previously unimaginable and the positive impact of her legacy with be felt by thousands of families for decades to come. She proved to women everywhere there was nothing they couldn’t accomplish. She will go down in history as one of the truly great Prime Ministers.” But she didn’t live through the brutality of the Thatcher years.
2 June 2013: Ruth Davidson Causes Furore within the Tory party with her new policies of More devolved Powers For Scotland
Davidson’s remarks come after a stormy two weeks within the Scottish Conservatives. Senior party figures criticised her leadership following her decision to support a policy of handing more powers to the Scottish Parliament, and raised questions over her parliamentary style. Lord Forsyth, the former Scottish Secretary, described the u-turn on more powers as a “suicide mission”. However, Davidson says today that Prime Minister David Cameron, is “on board” with her plans to embed greater devolution in the party’s next election manifesto – assuming voters do not back independence first.
5 June 2013: It all started with a “line in the sand”. Amazing what an election loss brings with it.
Ruth Davidson’s “Line in the Sand” statement that got her the post Of leader gets washed away in favour of the losing candidate’s previously rejected proposals for change. “How’s that for stealing.f a rivals thunder?” She had chosen the term to define her position on the constitution, vowing that the Scottish Conservatives under her premiership would take devolution no further than the tranche of powers set to be handed to Holyrood under the Scotland Act 2012.
To the Tory grandees’ ear, it meant more than a simple cliché: it suggested stability against the stormy root-and-branch reconstruction that her principal challenger for the party leadership, Murdo Fraser, advocated. If only it had all been so simple, or at least the former BBC journalist had opted for less unequivocal language.
Eighteen months after her election, Davidson found herself in an awkward position, cast by then supporters, such as Lord Forsyth, as guilty of an “ while those who once opposed her bid line up, in public at least, to commend a courageous change of tack. In private, behind the veil of anonymity that daily newspapers have provided in the last few weeks, their words would appear to be less praiseworthy.
Eighteen months after her election, Davidson found herself in an awkward position. Discussion of the detail that enhanced devolution would entail was largely crowded out by discussion of whether enhanced devolution should happen at all. Lord Forsyth, whose views on greater devolution are hardly secret, warned the proposals represented an “incomprehensible volte face” and that the party was on a “bit of a suicide mission” tinkering with the settlement as it stood.
Murdo Fraser broke his silence: “Certainly the mood music thus far from Ruth, in terms of the two speeches she has made on the issue, have both been extremely positive and I think I tweeted at the time I could have written one of the speeches.
She had made very clear she wants to see a more accountable Scottish Parliament raising the bulk of the money it spends, so I think the direction of travel is encouraging. We’ll need to wait and see what the new proposals are but having set the hare running, we need to make sure that we’re not all disappointed when it comes to rest – that there is something substantial and credible and comprehensive there.
I have high ambitions for it and I think many people in the party who share my outlook also have. Our problem as a party is we’ve always been the back markers when it comes to constitutional debate. We’ve always been the ones who have been the most slow to move and then only move very reluctantly.
This is an opportunity for us for once not to be the back marker and to be seen to be taking a leading line. And we should be because it should be entirely in tune with basic Conservative principles that we support greater financial accountability and a more responsible environment for politicians to operate in.”
7 June 2013: Cameron launches defence of Scottish Conservative leader
Davidson has faced one of the most challenging periods of her leadership heading into conference with some of her own MSPs and party grandees who originally backed her leadership bid questioning why she has abandoned her previous opposition to more powers.
At the Scottish Conservative party conference in Stirling, in her defence, David Cameron told delegates that she was the “ideal leader” to modernise the party and expand its appeal and he backed her u-turn on further devolution for Scotland. He said: “We will only succeed if we are in touch and in tune with modern Scotland. And in Ruth you’ve got the ideal leader.
Ruth wasn’t born into the Conservative Party – she chose it. And she understands that to win we’ve got to be a party for all of Scotland. A party focused on securing Scotland’s place within a strong UK but not afraid to look at how devolution can be improved.”
1 June 2014: Ruth Davidson today announced a historic shift in Scottish Conservatives’ attitude towards devolution by signalling that her party will re-draw the “line in the sand” and embrace a stronger Holyrood with radical new tax-raising powers.
The Scottish Tory leader says the Conservatives will advocate a “new system” that will bring real accountability to Scotland’s politics, paving the way for the transfer of all income tax raising powers to the Scottish Parliament. Tomorrow the Strathclyde commission is expected to produce a report recommending that Holyrood is given power over all income tax – a measure that would make the Scottish Parliament responsible for raising 40 per cent of the revenue it spends.
That would enable MSPs to set higher or lower rates than the rest of the UK and offers the possibility of the Scottish Tories campaigning on a tax-cutting agenda in the 2016 Scottish elections. The new powers would be offset by a cut in the block grant which Holyrood receives from the Treasury.
The move will be in line with Davidson’s growing belief that Holyrood must become more accountable for the cash that MSPs spend. “Every year, billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is allocated by MSPs to spend in Scotland, Yet MSPs are responsible for raising only a fraction of that money. Holyrood is, in effect, a giant spending machine, ministers and MSPs the signatories of a vast cheque book.”
The new approach contrasts radically with past Tory policy. In 1997 the Conservatives opposed devolution and the formation of a Scottish Parliament. It also marks a departure for Davidson herself, who campaigned for the Scottish Conservative leadership on the basis that a constitutional “line in the sand” should be drawn.
It is understood that Lord Strathclyde will also look at devolution of some welfare payments. Holyrood being given greater over housing benefit is one example, which would allow a Scottish Parliament to abolish the bedroom tax – the UK Government – imposed cut in the spare room subsidy which has been opposed by the SNP.
The document will also recommend that important aspects of the UK’s uniform tax system – such as VAT and Corporation Tax – will remain under the control of Westminster. Although Strathclyde has been chairing the commission, Davidson has taken a great personal interest in the work and has played the leading role in selling its recommendations to Downing Street.
In recent weeks she has met David Cameron and George Osborne to discuss the findings, which are likely to be included in the Tories’ 2015 General Election manifesto.
Last night Derek MacKay, the SNP’s Business Convener, responded saying that only a Yes vote would deliver the powers Scotland requires. “The only way to get the powers Scotland needs to build a fairer society and stronger economy is to vote Yes in September,” MacKay said. “The Tories are more interested in outdoing Labour than in delivering jobs or opportunities for Scotland.”
He added: “Whenever the Tories have been in a position to prove their commitment to more powers they have been found wanting. People in Scotland won’t be fooled by the Tories’empty promises.” But 55% of those who voted in the referendum believed Davidson, Cameron and other parties signed to the Better Together campaign.
10 October 2014: Davidson interviewed by police over vote claims
Ruth Davidson has been interviewed by police in her Parliament offices in connection with allegations pro-Union campaigners illegally counted postal votes in the weeks before independence referendum ballots closed.
She was spoken to yesterday, six days after Police Scotland was instructed to carry out an investigation into alleged electoral secrecy law breaches. Party sources say the interview was conducted on the basis of her being a witness and that Ms Davidson is not the subject of the investigation.
The formal police probe was sparked after the Scottish Tory leader said on a televised discussion that postal vote “tallies” were being taken in the weeks before the referendum ballot closed at 10pm on September 18.
Police made initial telephone contact with Ms Davidson last Friday and party sources said at the time, and continue to say, that there is “no suggestion she was accused of doing anything wrong”.
Central to the probe is televised coverage of the referendum results, 45 minutes after the polls closed, in which Ms Davidson said that the No camp had been incredibly encouraged by the results of a “sample opening” of the postal ballot that she said had taken place around the country during the few weeks prior to the poll.
Complaints over her account of the postal vote “tallies” raised concerns the information may have helped inform the No campaign’s decision to issue the vow of more powers for Scotland from the three main party leaders.
A Scottish Conservative Party spokesman said yesterday: “Ruth had arranged to speak to police today in her office to help them with complaints they had received.”
In the footage forwarded to police, Ms Davidson said: “Postal votes are going to be enormously important in this campaign; about 18 per cent of the vote is going to come out of postal ballots and we have had people at every sample opening, around the country, over the last few weeks, while that’s been coming in.
And we’ve been incredibly encouraged by the results.” Later, referring to postal ballots, she said: “Different local authorities have had openings around the country”, before adding: “There’s people in the room that have been sampling those ballot boxes that have been opened and have been taking tallies and the reports have been very positive for us.”
Political agents and campaigners are allowed to oversee the postal vote opening sessions, where checks are made to verify the signatures and dates of birth on postal voting statements against computerised records, but it is illegal to attempt to ascertain how a vote has been cast. A Police Scotland spokeswoman said of the latest development: “We never comment on anyone who is spoken to as part of any ongoing investigation.”
This ridiculous statement from Ruth Davidson does a disservice to the seriousness of the issues, and is simply insulting to the members of the McCluskey Panel – including the member nominated by Ms Davidson – as well as to others involved in this process.
If this is the Tory attitude to achieving consensus, it’s very clear why the equivalent process at Westminster is in such a mess.”
1 May 2015: General Election administrators warned to prevent illegal postal vote tallies by political agents after Scottish Referendum row
Electoral administrators and returning officers for the General Election have been reminded that the postal ballot is secret and voting tallies by political agents is illegal.
The guidance has come as a result of the experience during the Scottish Referendum when it was alleged pro-union campaigners breached electoral law by examining postal ballot papers to gauge how well the Better Together campaign was doing before the polls had closed on September 18.
At the end of September 2014 the Crown Office instructed Police Scotland to launch a formal investigation into the electoral fraud allegationso. Police say they are continuing to investigate but will not comment on what progress they have made during that time. Some complainers have raised further concern that no police action was taken in advance of the General Election.
It was revealed that police twice spoke to Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson as a potential witness over comments she made that postal vote “tallies” were being taken in the weeks before the referendum ballot closed at 10pm on September 18 last year.
On televised coverage of the referendum results, 45 minutes after the polls closed, Ms Davidson said that the No camp had been “incredibly encouraged” by the results of a “sample opening” of the postal ballot that she said had taken place around the country over the few weeks prior to the poll.
Complaints over her account of the postal vote “tallies” raised concerns the information may have helped inform the No campaign’s decision to issue the “vow” of more powers for Scotland from the three main party leaders.
It has emerged that Mary Pitcaithly, covener of the Electoral Management Board for Scotland has recommended to returning officers in Scotland that they take particular care in making sure the law is complied with and that the secrecy requirement is explained to all those attending postal vote openings.
The moves which the EMB said “draw on lessons learned from the Scottish independence referendum” include asking that ballot papers are handled face down so that no mark on the front of the paper is able to be seen by observers. And EMB spokeswoman said the recommendations have been “well received”.
The postal vote, makes up between 20% and 50% of the counted votes. Around 800,000 people, or 19% of participants, voted by post in the referendum. Openings to validate signatures and dates of birth were done before the official count and in Edinburgh the process was conducted at the EICC on Thursday. Those administering the process were told that while it was open to polling observers for “monitoring” purposes it was not for sampling.
A briefing for the 2015 General Election, to prospective candidates and their agents in Edinburgh constituencies stated “Must be seen to be fair, no question of interference.”
It added: “Confidence in the system depends on integrity of campaigners: Code of Conduct! Experience of 2014!” The Electoral Commission has also advised all electoral administrators that the law prohibits tallying at postal vote opening sessions.
The advice states that under the Section 66(4)(d) of the Representation of the People Act 1983 it is “not permissible to attempt to ascertain the candidate for whom any vote is given in any particular ballot paper or communicate that information. “This provision therefore prevents those present at the postal vote opening from attempting to ascertain the way individual ballot papers are marked,”
The advice says. “Anyone attending a postal vote opening must not attempt to look at identifying marks or numbers on ballot papers, disclose how any particular ballot paper has been marked or pass on any such information gained from the session,”
The Electoral Commission advice says. “Anyone found guilty of breaching these requirements can face a fine of up to £5,000, or may be imprisoned for up to six months in England and Wales, or up to a year in Scotland. “Our guidance to both candidates and electoral administrators clearly states the law and that the tallying of postal votes is prohibited.
Should anyone attempt to tally postal votes at the General Election, it would be for the relevant police force to investigate.”
7 May 2015: Ruth Davidson Cries wolf reporting (at 0512 hours!!!) that “Burly blokes’ were turning rival voters away from Annan polling station
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson took to Twitter to make the claims of ‘disturbing reports’. Police are investigating claims. ‘burly blokes’ have been turning rival voters away from a polling station, if they say they don’t support a certain party. The incident is said to have happened in the Scottish town of Annan, where by chance the only Tory MP David Mundell is hoping for a return to Westminster
It is believed a call was placed to Ruth Davidson’s office and they immediately (without gathering the facts of the situation) telephoned the electoral registration officer at the local Council and the Police.
Ms Davidson’s claims were later slapped down by Dumfries and Galloway Council, which is running the count. The council tweeted to her: “No burly blokes outside Annan. Officers and police visiting frequently. No complaints re canvassers.” end of.
17 June 2012: Ruth Davidson fined by Electorial Commission for failing to Declare Donations Timeously
The commission last week issued a report stating that Davidson twice broke electoral law by missing the 30-day deadline for registering two donations totalling £14,500 in October. The Glasgow list MSP was fined £400, with each offence punished by a fixed penalty of £200. Davidson paid the fine on May 11.
The fine is embarrassing for Davidson, as it raises questions about her experience and competence. A senior Tory source said: “This is just not what the party needs. It’s the latest in a long set of embarrassing moments for Ruth.”
Davidson, 33, a former BBC broadcaster, became Tory leader in November following a bitter and divisive contest triggered by the resignation of Annabel Goldie in May 2011. She was made leader just six months after becoming an MSP for the first time. Despite being the favourite of the Tory hierarchy, she failed to secure the support of association chairs in her Glasgow seat, and her campaign was dogged by a series of self-inflicted errors. In the closing days of the campaign, the three other Tory MSPs vying for the job accused her of receiving an unfair advantage through covert backing from Conservative HQ.
After a fleeting honeymoon period, Davidson has been the subject of mounting criticism from the Scottish Tories, with a surge in complaints after the party lost 20% of its vote and its councillors in May’s local elections. Last week, Alex Salmond taunted her at First Minister’s Questions by reading out critical comments from Toryhoose – a Scottish Conservatives website – which had previously acted as Davidson’s cheerleader, about the party’s poor showing in the election. The latest setback concerns money given to Davidson’s leadership campaign last autumn.
Electoral Commission records show Davidson accepted £29,500 in four lots in her capacity as a “regulated donee”, the term used when an individual MP or MSP accepts a donation. Two donations were accepted on September 19 – a sum of £2000 from James Stewart, director of a private equity company who has also in the past given money to Scottish Tory MP David Mundell; and £12,500 from Glasgow-based property company Alchemist Estates Limited, owned by Conservative donor Brian Gillies. By law, these should have been declared to the Commission by October 18, but Davidson failed to register them until November 21, when she also declared a further £10,000 from Stewart and £5000 from London-based donor Carolyn Ward.
In its enforcement report, the Commission said it had fined Davidson for “failure to deliver two donation reports within 30 days of acceptance of donations”. Davidson’s main rival for the Tory leadership, Murdo Fraser, reported all of his donations on time. SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon: “This is a humiliation for Ruth Davidson and another blow for her flagging leadership.” A Labour spokesman said: “These rules are in place for good reason to ensure fairness and transparency in elections and it is appropriate this action is taken against Ruth Davidson.