WITH an General Election drawing ever closer the SNP and the Tories continue at loggerheads over accounting practices.
The latest spat relates to a complaint made by Douglas Norrie, treasurer of the Angus Conservative Association to the Electoral Commission.
The formal complaint concerns what the Tories say is "the total secrecy surrounding the financial activities of the SNP in Angus".
The law states that parties and associations must annually submit their statements of account for public viewing by the Electoral Commission, if their gross turnover exceeds 25,000.
The Tories assert that the Angus SNP had not submitted statements of account despite appearing to have income or expenditure over the 25,000 limit.
"Nothing has been submitted for public viewing by the Angus SNP since 2001/02," explains Alberto Costa, the Tories Parliamentary candidate for Angus.
At first the Electoral Commission said there was insufficient evidence to warrant a review.
However, in the wake of new supporting evidence provided by the Tories, the EC has taken the decision to conduct a review on the matter.
Albert Costa adds: "The Electoral Commission have provisionally concluded that there is reason to believe that a breach of the electoral law by the SNP may have occurred. This is potentially a very serious infringement of the law."
Professor John Hillman, chairman of the Angus Conservatives added: "The Electoral Commission has confirmed the SNP has four 'accounting units' in Angus, none of which discloses their accounts.
"What concerns me, and many other taxpayers in Angus, is that Mr Weir and his team may be attempting to circumvent electoral law on disclosure of party political accounts.
"All political parties and constituency associations must publicly disclose accounts if their gross annual turnover is greater than 25,000.
"The 'Angus SNP' purport to operate four 'accounting units' across Angus presumably to break down the total annual gross turnover, thereby avoiding the need publicly to disclose any of their accounts."
Mr Douglas Norrie, treasurer of the Angus Conservatives said: "Over the nine years Mr Weir has been an MP hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money could have been used for party political purposes and we have absolutely no way of knowing.
"For Mr Weir to claim he is open and transparent is grossly misleading but for him to criticise the Conservatives is downright hypocritical."
Alberto Costa, Conservative Candidate for Angus said: "I have signed Clean Campaign and Expenses Transparency Pledges. Mr Weir MP refused to join me in signing these pledges. Even though SNP activists continue to personally smear me, I will continue to fight a clean campaign. It's up to Mr Weir to join me in pledging real transparency and for him to disclose his accounts."
Commenting on the allegations made by the Angus Conservatives, Mike Weir MP said that they were deliberately trying to confuse two issues, that of SNP monies and his own parliamentary expenses.
"The situation regarding my offices have been well documented following similar mud slinging exercise by the Tories, the most recent only last month.
"Since they seem to have collective amnesia over the issue I will reiterate, I have three offices in the constituency in Arbroath, Forfar and Montrose.
"I only claim rent from my Parliamentary expenses for the Arbroath office. The other two offices were procured by me at my own expense."
"Despite the fact I have these three offices my claims for office expenses have always been on the low end of the scale as have my overall expenses.
"I realise that, as Tories, they may find it difficult to understand that someone would chose to use their own resources to provide a service rather than rely on expenses that is indeed the case."
"Mr Costa's continual claims of running a "clean campaign" do not stand up to scrutiny, as this latest episode of vindictive nonsense amply demonstrates."
A spokesman for the Angus SNP Westminster Campaign Committee, which is responsible for General Election campaigns, added:
"This is just the latest example of the Tories in Angus throwing mud and hoping some of it sticks.
"Our accounts, as are those of the Angus SNP Constituency Association which oversees Scottish Parliamentary campaigns, are lodged in accordance with Electoral Commission guidelines and are available to the Commission for viewing if they wish to do so.
"Neither ourselves nor the Constituency Association have been contacted by the Commission regarding this or any other matter.
"Should we be approached we will of course give them our full co-operation.
"The accounting units of the SNP have at all times followed the guidelines laid down by the Commission.
"This is just the latest manisfestation of the dirty campaign being run by the Tories in Angus."
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