HOLYROOD has ruled that local MSP Rob Gibson broke parliamentary rules by attempting to use public funds to promote two Caithness council candidates, it has been alleged.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats claim that it was decided on Wednesday at a meeting of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body that receipts Mr Gibson had filed for adverts featuring his staff – two of whom were up for election yesterday – were not to be paid for by the public and the MSP should pick up the tab personally.
MSP for Shetland Tavish Scott brought the allegations of the misuse of taxpayers’ money to light earlier this week.
And yesterday, as voters went to the polls, the one-time Scottish Lib Dem leader slammed what he claimed was an attempt to abuse the public purse to promote SNP candidates in the local government elections, calling it a “damning indictment” of the SNP.
He added that the SNP seemed to think that they had the right to “bend, twist and break all the rules”.
“Using public funds to buy votes is something you would expect from corrupt dictators rather than in a modern, democratic Scotland,” said Mr Scott.
However, a Scottish Parliament spokesman said they could not comment on or confirm whether a complaint from Mr Scott had been received or if the corporate body had made a ruling, although it was stated that a meeting had taken place on Wednesday, the minutes of which will reveal more when eventually published online.
Mr Gibson could not be reached yesterday by the John O’Groat Journal for a comment.
However, an SNP spokesperson gave a response on his behalf aimed at the Lib Dems who broke their claims about the Holyrood ruling over social micro-blogging site Twitter yesterday morning.
“Why is this information being leaked on Twitter when the corporate body has not published its minutes or written to me?” she said.
Council candidate and Mr Gibson’s parliamentary researcher Alex MacLeod issued a statement from Mr Gibson, who said: “As soon as I receive word from the corporate body themselves I will act on whatever recommendation they give, but for now I will not take the Lib Dems’ word for it.”
The Groat pressed the SNP for confirmation of the Lib Dems’ claims but they refused to comment.
From March 22, when council candidates were officially announced, they had to work to a strict campaign budget which typically amounts to around just over £1000 each.
Earlier this week Mr Gibson defended his use of adverts which gave equal billing to his staff members, Gail Ross and Mr MacLeod, who were both standing as SNP council candidates yesterday.
He said it was “desperate stuff” from the Lib Dems and an attempt to grab last-minute votes from the SNP.
Local government campaign expenses have to be handed in following the elections to be scrutinised.
However, Mr MacLeod said as the adverts were placed before March 22 they would not affect his or Mrs Ross’s campaign budgets.