Government officials have regular discussions with the Electoral Commission about the commission’s role in the referendum, including campaign regulation. The commission published a report on, among other things, campaign spending limits on 29 January 2013. The Scottish Government accepted all the commission’s recommendations and that was of course reflected in the terms of the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill.
In The Daily Telegraph of 26 September 2012, the Labour MP John Mann described Mr Ian Taylor’s donations to the Conservative Party as “dirty money” and was reported as demanding that the Tories hand the money back. The minister will be aware of the public concern about the donation and might have seen the petition by national collective about it.
I have signed the petition and urge others to do so.
Does the cabinet secretary agree that Scotland’s referendum must be conducted to the highest possible standards and that therefore the no campaign should hand Mr Taylor’s £0.5 million back pending a full internal investigation of that dodgy donation?
I am aware of the concerns that have been raised in the past couple of weeks and of the seriousness of the questions that have been asked. I am also very aware that there are those in the Labour Party who previously criticised donations from the same source when they were made to the Conservative Party. It is obviously not for me to run the no campaign, but I agree that it might well be a wise course of action for it to hand back the money pending an internal investigation of the type suggested by the member. I am also aware that a petition is being pursued, although that is of course a matter for the Public Petitions Committee. For our part, we are absolutely determined that this referendum will be run to the highest standards of probity.