THE leader of a Scottish council’s Tory group has refused an official request to explain the source of a £100,000 donation.

North Ayrshire Council chief executive Craig Hatton wrote to Councillor Tom Marshall after other members of the Labour-led body voted to press for answers over the six-figure gift from the Irvine Unionist Club.

The funds were given to the North Ayrshire Conservative and Unionist Association in April 2016. Because the now-defunct club was not a registered political donor, the move – revealed in the summer of 2017 – was in breach of UK electoral law and the club was subsequently fined £400.

The money is said to have come from the sale of a building on Irvine High Street several years earlier. However, further details have not been circulated and now SNP members on the local authority say questions remain over the source.

READ MORE: Ayrshire Unionist club fined for £100,000 Tory investment

In December, that group raised a motion requesting that Hatton press Marshall for a written statement. The move was passed despite abstentions from most of the Labour members.

At a full meeting of the council yesterday, Hatton said Marshall had declined, stating “he had nothing further to add” to a statement given late last year. Back then, Marshall, who represents the North Coast and Cumbraes ward, said his party is “committed to openness and transparency in all political donations”, adding: “The donation was not illegal.”

Proposing the letter move in December, SNP councillor Davina McTiernan, who represents Stevenston, said the issue was about “openness and accountability” and the public deserved answers.

She noted that the number of Tory councillors had risen to seven after the £100,000 was received.

The National: Scott Gallacher, Tory member for Irvine WestScott Gallacher, Tory member for Irvine West

At the time, Scott Gallacher, Tory member for Irvine West, dismissed this, telling the Irvine Times: “I don’t know what the SNP are looking for here – like Pablo Escobar’s going to be funding us.”

However, the SNP were not the only party seeking clarity about the source of the cash, with Ross Greer, Green MSP for the West of Scotland, raising the issue in Holyrood.

He lodged a parliamentary motion and said it was time for the Tories and their regional MSP Jamie Greene to “come clean”, adding: “We need to know why they didn’t provide notification of this significant sum, where that money came from and what it was used for. Transparency in political donations is essential in protecting us from a system where rich interests wield influence from behind a veil of secrecy.”

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However, Greene dismissed claims of secretive practices, saying: “The Electoral Commission has investigated the donation, and has concluded that the trust was not exempt in terms of the 2000 Political Parties Act’s reporting requirements.

“The [club’s] trustees have accepted that they were at fault in failing to register the donation, and have paid the £400 fine. The Conservative Party was not investigated nor subject to any fine.”

The row is one of several donation scandals to hit UK politics in recent months. It has been revealed that so-called “dark money” donations, with no clear original source, were accepted by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the Leave.EU campaign run by insurance magnate Arron Banks.