Jul 11 2012 by Andrew Burns, Dumfries Standard Wednesday
CALLS have been made to the Electoral Commission to investigate the council’s involvement in a botched SNP raffle.
A draw for the £1,000 star prize scooter will take place on Friday after officials from the local authority ordered the organisers to announce a winner. The scandal was exposed in the Standard after SNP members in Dumfries admitted taking money from punters for the raffle but never drawing it.
Almost all of the 60 ticket holders were contacted by the council’s licensing team to notify them of the draw.
But Councillor Ronnie Nicholson (pictured), leader of the Labour group, claims that this is a “misuse of council resources” and has raised his concerns in a letter to the Electoral Commission.
He said: “I am calling on the Electoral Commission to investigate the apparent misuse of council resources by the SNP.
“The SNP pocketed the cash from a raffle and never did the draw, and the council has now been dragged into the middle of an issue that is subject to a police investigation. I am deeply concerned that council staff will be running a raffle for a political party on council premises.”
The tickets were originally sold in a tent at Dumfries Agricultural Show last August with a draw date set for January 25 this year.
But organisers failed to get enough money to cover the cost of the prizes.
Councillor Nicholson added: “We have ended up in the outrageous position of the council itself contacting everyone who had been sold tickets and organising the draw. In effect this is a donation of taxpayers’ time and money by the council to the SNP, which is completely out of order. Local people need to be sure that the council is not using taxpayers’ money to aid a political party.”
Alex Haswell, clerk to the licensing board, said: “There appears to be a misunderstanding of the role of the licensing board in relation to this matter.
“Dumfries constituency branch of the SNP is a society, registered with the licensing board.
“When it came to my attention, as clerk to the board, that a lottery organised by that society had failed to take place, I ascertained that there was a statutory duty on the board to take appropriate action to protect the interests of the public, who may have purchased tickets for the lottery.
“The draw will take place on council premises, since it is being undertaken by the licensing board (not the society) and the reason for using this building was to enable people to attend to see the draw, should they so wish.”
The SNP’s Dumfries branch convener Alistair Witts said: “The matter was reported to the police and licencing board and we are cooperating fully with the ongoing investigation.”
At the time of writing, the Electoral Commission were considering the complaint. Police are currently investigating the matter.