A trust accused of funding the Scottish Conservatives with “dark money” has revealed its official address and current trustees following an investigation by The Ferret.
The Scottish Unionist Association Trust (SUAT) is currently under examination by the Electoral Commission after we highlighted inconsistencies in the trust’s status.
Following resulting pressure from opposition parties and the media, the trustees of SUAT released a statement to the BBC. It said that SUAT was formed in 1968 from the assets – primarily property sales – of the then Scottish Unionist Association.
“It invests those assets and makes the proceeds available to further the aims of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party. All UK taxation liabilities have been and continue to be met in full,” the statement said.
It disclosed that the address of the Trust is 570 Mosspark Boulevard, Glasgow G52 1SD. “Previous addresses may have been used for correspondence in the past, and have been changed as trustees have changed over time,” it added.
“We are in dialogue with the Electoral Commission and it would be inappropriate to say more whilst that dialogue continues. Current trustees are all resident in Scotland, as has been the case for all previous trustees.”
SUAT named its chairman as Robert Miller-Bakewell and six other trustees: Kim Donald, Patricia McPhee, Sheila Fulton, John Duncan, Peter Duncan and Frank Spencer Nairn.
The Scottish Unionist Association Trust has contacted the BBC with the following re donations pic.twitter.com/MFzSITjW94
— Nick Eardley (@nickeardleybbc) July 4, 2018
SUAT released the statement shortly after the SNP’s leader at Westminster, Ian Blackford accused the Tories of “systematically concealing their donations from public scrutiny” before calling on Theresa May to launch an investigation.
“I’m now giving the Prime Minister the opportunity to tell us what checks the Scottish Tory party had in place before accepting such large donations, and will she investigate the links between the Conservative Party and the trust and promise to publish a list of all donations and donors?” asked Blackford at Prime Minister’s question time in the House of Commons.
In response, May said that “all donations to the Scottish Conservative party are accepted and declared in accordance with the law, and the Scottish Conservative Party works with the Electoral Commission to make sure that that is all done properly.”
David Duguid, the Tory MP for Banff and Buchan had earlier faced questions on The Ferret’s disclosure that both he and Moray MP, Douglas Ross, had each received a £7,500 donation from SUAT to help fund their election campaigns.
Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Duguid said that he “wouldn’t call it dark money at this stage”.
Asked about the address and donors of SUAT, he admitted that he knew nothing about the trust and had been“more focused on winning the election than where any donation was coming from.”
He said that every donation to his electoral campaign “went through the appropriate process” and that whether SUAT were an appropriate donor is “a matter for the party”.
Earlier this week Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, expressed surprise that more questions weren’t being asked about the Scottish Conservatives’ “dark money” donations.
Referencing The Ferret’s SUAT investigation and the BBC’s probe into former Scottish Tory vice chairman, Richard Cook, SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes last week wrote to Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson MSP, asking her what checks the party has in place before accepting donations.
My 3 key #questions to the @ScotTories & @RuthDavidsonMSP | The where and why of #darkmoney #DUP #RuthDavidson Told to Come Clean Over Trail of Murky Donations: More from the @ththighland https://t.co/eeOpFM9qlm… pic.twitter.com/jzbKNhuUbw
— Martin Docherty-Hughes 🏴🏳️🌈 (@MartinJDocherty) July 1, 2018
Opposition parties had also called on Davidson to reveal details about SUAT.
The Scottish Greens told The Ferret that it was “no coincidence” that recent Tory electoral gains in Scotland have “coincided with an upsurge in suspicious donations”. Scottish Labour called on Davidson to reveal what SUAT expects “in return for their six-figure sum”.