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Electoral Commission concludes assessment of allegations against Business for Scotland and the Scottish National Party

Published: 15 Oct 2015

The Electoral Commission has today concluded its assessment of allegations that the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Business for Scotland (BFS) were ‘working together’ to promote or procure a ‘yes’ outcome at the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum in a way that breached the rules set out in the Scottish Independence Referendum Act (SIRA) 2013.

The Commission has found no evidence during its assessment that the SNP and BFS worked together in a way that broke the law. There is therefore no need to open a full investigation.

Under SIRA, if campaigners worked together under an ‘agreed plan’, spending related to this plan would count towards each campaigners spending limits. The Commission found no evidence that BFS and the SNP were operating under such a plan. 

Should further information come to light, the Commission will consider this but at this stage, no further action will be taken.

For further information contact:
Karim Aziz in the Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704 or kaziz@electoralcommission.org.uk
Out of office hours 07789 920 414

Notes to editors
1. The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up by the UK Parliament. Our aim is integrity and public confidence in the UK’s democratic process. We regulate party and election finance and set standards for well-run elections and are responsible for the conduct and regulation of referendum held under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (2000). The Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013 gave the Commission a number of responsibilities for the Scottish independence referendum for which we report directly to the Scottish Parliament.

2. ‘Working together’ rules are contained in the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013, schedule 4, paragraph 20. In the guidance that the Commission produced for campaigners on ‘working together’ it stated that:

‘Working together’ means spending money as a result of an agreed plan or arrangement between one or more campaigners during the referendum period.

In our view, you will be very likely to be working together if:
• you have joint advertising campaigns, leaflets or events
• you coordinate your activity with another campaigner – for example, if you agree that you should each cover particular areas, arguments or voters
• another campaigner can approve or has significant influence over your leaflets, websites, telephone scripts or other campaign materials

3. There are two elements to the Electoral Commission’s allegations handling. Firstly case assessment; which could potentially lead to an investigation. Only where an assessment suggests there may be a breach of the law, would the Commission then commence an investigation. For more information on the Commission’s process for dealing with allegations, click here.