CALLS for proper scrutiny of political donations are mounting amid revelations the Conservative party was handed almost £100,000 in donations by a Scottish “dark money” trust in 2021.

The Scottish Unionist Association Trust (SUAT) donated some £95,123 to the Conservative party in 2021, newly released Electoral Commission records show.

Senior SNP MP Pete Wishart said that securing “donations of this scale without any proper scrutiny is totally unacceptable” and called on the Tories to “no longer accept any sort of donations from these sort of trusts”.

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As an unincorporated association, the SUAT does not have to file accounts or show where its money originated. It has been branded a “dark money” group and has previously been fined by the commission on multiple occasions for not reporting donations properly.

Ruth Davidson told the BBC in 2018 that "almost all" Scottish Conservative candidates would have benefitted from the trust.

The National: Douglas Ross

The Ferret reported that it had given direct donations to the party’s now-leader Douglas Ross (above), former leader Jackson Carlaw MSP, David Duguid MP, and former Scottish secretary David Mundell.

The two largest packets of cash the trust handed to the Conservative Party in 2021 were either side of the Holyrood election. A donation of £30,000 was sent to the central party in April, followed by another of £42,000 in late May.

The 20 other donations included packets of between £1000 and £2500 which were sent to Tory branches in Highland, Fife, Perth and Kinross, Aberdeenshire, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire and Inverclyde, and the Scottish Borders.

A non-cash donation valued at £660 was given to the party on the first of each month from June to November. Further, semi-regular cash donations of £833.33 were sent to the central party by the SUAT over that same time period.

Electoral Commission records going back to 2001 suggest the trust has now handed the party £532,405.24 across 177 separate donations.

In that same time period, the commission lists the trust as having received £710,192.16 across four donations. This includes £157,350.07 from an Ann C Hay, £50,000 from the Glasgow Unionist Association Trust, £11,520 from an Ishbel A McNeill, and £491,322.09 from the Irvine Unionist Club in late 2019.

This Irvine club, now defunct, was another “dark money” fund which donated to the Tories, and was previously fined for not properly reporting a £100,000 donation to the party.

Under pressure over the “dark money” allegations in 2018, the SUAT revealed it was based at 570 Mosspark Boulevard, Glasgow. It also told the BBC that, at the end of 2017, its net assets were worth £2.35 million.

Multiple Conservative and Unionist associations are also listed as being based out of that address, including the City of Glasgow’s, North Lanarkshire’s, South Lanarkshire’s, Renfrewshire and Inverclyde’s, East Ayrshire’s, and East Dunbartonshire’s.

The 570 Mosspark address (shown below) was transferred to SUAT by the Glasgow Unionist Association Trust in 2014.

The National:

Wishart told The National: “The way that unincorporated associations work is totally unacceptable and it needs further and close examination.

“To secure donations of this scale without any proper scrutiny is totally unacceptable. All it does is degrade political debate and debase our political structures when money like this is taken in by political parties without proper scrutiny.”

Wishart called on electoral regulators to "examine very closely associations with dark money".

“[The Tories accepting these donations] should cease," he went on. "They should no longer accept any sort of donations from these sorts of trusts. There have been several Tory politicians who have benefited greatly from unincorporated associations like SUAT.

“Any politician accepting money has an obligation to check where that money has come from, and I think the days of just accepting money without any background, without any checking, must come to an end.”

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The SUAT’s statement further said that its chairman was Robert Millar-Bakewell and that the trust had been “formed in 1968 from assets of the (then) Scottish Unionist Association, primarily sales of property assets”.

It added: “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.

“Current trustees are all resident in Scotland, as has been the case for all previous trustees.”

In an interview with the BBC, Peter Duncan, a former Tory MP who dropped his role on the SUAT board after it became public, said that “in no way” were the group’s donations “dark money”.

“This is historic proceeds of tombolas and raffles throughout the west of Scotland going back 50 years,” he said.

When the 570 Mosspark Boulevard address was called, The National was told that SUAT communications were handled by the Scottish Conservative press office.

The Scottish Tories said that they had passed our enquiry on to the SUAT but would not be commenting themselves.