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Political

Alex Cole-Hamilton cleared as another SNP complaint falls apart under examination

Another day, another SNP-inspired complaint about the election expenses of a Scottish Liberal Democrat falls apart.

Following the news about Jo Swinson, comes the news about Alex Cole-Hamilton.

The MSP for West Edinburgh said,

I learned this morning that the Electoral Commission has concluded an investigation into my 2016 election spending and found no irregularities with my return.

Members of West Edinburgh SNP had made an allegation to them immediately after a 15-month police investigation (which the SNP also initiated) determined I had no case to answer.

All told, the SNP have seen me subjected to two tax-payer funded investigations spanning a total of 27 months. While the cost to the public purse of these is hard to quantify, the waste of police time, in particular, is inexcusable.

To suffer an unexpected and heavy defeat is hard, but that’s politics. To then meet that defeat with a complaint to overstretched police officers, is a willful disregard of both the democratic process and the public good.

I hope the SNP reflect on that as defeat becomes more commonplace to them.

Finally, if their intention was to distract me from the job I love, then they have failed. Every single day of these past 27 months I have continued to work my heart out for the people and communities of West Edinburgh I’m so proud to serve.

The Electoral Commission had written to say,

In our investigation we questioned whether the values of some payments included in the Party’s campaign expenditure return, which had been apportioned between it and the candidate return for Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Western), were justifiable and if the campaign expenditure return accurately reflected the true expenditure by the Party. In particular, we queried the apportionments in respect of a number of leaflets that had been distributed in the Edinburgh Western constituency.

In view of the responses to this aspect of the investigation, we are satisfied that there were no breaches in respect of the apportionments.

UPDATE
The Electoral Commission has now made a public statement:

In line with our regulatory responsibilities the investigation we opened was into the Liberal Democrat Party’s spending return from the 2016 Scottish Parliament election and this investigation has yet to conclude.

Mr Cole-Hamilton has taken the unusual step of sharing extracts from a letter which the commission sent to the Liberal Democrats.

Our investigation is ongoing. We will publish the outcome when it is concluded but until then we have no further comment to make on what is a live matter.

As Alex Cole-Hamilton has pointed out,

I released the paragraphs concerning the investigation into my campaign in Edinburgh Western which has been concluded.

As the Electoral Commission comment makes clear a query regarding the national return remains ongoing.

This is an issue that has been hanging over me for some time and I was relieved that the Electoral Commission are satisfied there were no breaches concerning Edinburgh Western.

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