The body charged with ensuring the independence referendum is conducted fairly and within the law has said that it will be providing the ‘Yes’ campaign in East Lothian with guidance on how to comply with legal requirements relating to the poll, after one of its local leaflets failed to include details of who produced it.
The Electoral Commission, which has responsibility for ensuring that all referendum campaigners act within the law, also said it will be monitoring the activities of Yes East Lothian to ensure it complies with electoral law in the future.
The electoral body’s intervention followed an official complaint about the leaflet, which has been distributed without an imprint to indicate who produced or paid for it. The complaint was made after several local people highlighted their concerns about the leaflet which was distributed in Prestonpans. It follows similar concerns about another Yes leaflet given out in Musselburgh.
The Commission confirmed that it would contact Yes East Lothian to provide them with guidance on how to ensure that future materials they produce contain an imprint. It also stated it will be monitoring the group’s activities to ensure that they comply with the legislative requirement to include an imprint on all of their printed materials.
Robert McNeill, local Better Together co-ordinator for East Lothian Labour, said:
“Those of us campaigning for a No vote in East Lothian have been scrupulous about ensuring all of our printed materials meet legal requirements on the referendum. It’s essential that local campaigners act within the rules agreed by both sides so that the public can be confident that the referendum is run fairly and legally.
“However, it appears that the local Yes campaign think these rules don’t apply to them. The leaflet in question was the second one without an imprint that has been drawn to our attention. This cavalier approach to the referendum’s rules is unfair and unacceptable and I’m pleased that the Electoral Commission has said it will take Yes East Lothian to task and monitor any materials they produce during the rest of the campaign.
“There are also strict rules about spending limits in the campaign, for good reason. This is not about seeking to curtail campaigning but to ensure that the right campaign wins rather than the one with the most money.
“The No campaign here is working within the rules and reporting all expenditure locally to the No campaign headquarters. Given Yes East Lothian has already broken the rules, we will be keeping a close eye to see that all their expenditure in the county is accurately declared.”