Today I wrote to the Commissioner for Ethical standards with respect to Douglas Ross’s comments in the press that voting conservative would make it easier for communities to access UK treasury funds which are supposed to be allocated without fear or favour, or political influence.
It is my view that this comes with it a veiled threat that not voting for the tories would result in communities that were so disinclined to do so (or at the very least could be perceived as such, which in terms of voting intention has exactly the same effect in the minds of voters), would find it harder to access those funds than those who do vote tory.
That is coercive as far as I am concerned, and under the law, could reasonably constitute “undue influence” to try and have members of the electorate vote for his party, under the threat that their community could lose funding as we enter one of the worst cost of living crises since the winter of discontent. It is, as far as I am concerned, obscene!
I base my opinion on my reading of the text of Section 115 of the Representation of the People Act 1983, which is extremely complex, however, I have highlighted the appropriate words in the section to make it easier for people to understand.
It is ultimately for the commissioner to decide whether it does or does not constitute undue influence, however, this has been a tactic being used more frequently by the tories, and undermines the democratic process. It, therefore, needs to be challenged.
My letter to the commissioner for ethical standards (and copied to the Westminster standards committee because he is both an MSP and an MP, as well as the electoral commission) is as follows:
RE: Douglas Ross MP MSP
I would first like to disclose fully, the fact that I am an independent candidate in Ward 1, West Fife & Coastal Villages (Fife Council) for the upcoming elections. That being said, I make this contact as an ordinary member of the electorate, to raise concerns about Mr. Ross with respect to comments made by him.
According to the Scotsman in an article today, the 11th April 2022, he is quoted as saying that “voting conservative” gives local communities the ‘best shot’ at securing “UK government cash”.
This gives me serious concern on the basis that it is a clear statement that voting conservative would enable the free flow of funds to local communities, or inversely, would make it harder for communities to access funds if they choose not to vote conservative. The implication of non-conservative voting areas finding it more difficult to receive such funding is clear in the statement that voting Tory would somehow give communities a leg up on accessing the same.
Community funding should never be dictated by a voter’s choice, nor a communities choice of an elected representative. Nor should it be implied to be the case. Such a statement is an indirect threat to inflict financial harm on local communities by way of funding, in order to induce or compel a voter to vote or refrain from voting for a specific party, thereby impeding or preventing the free exercise of the franchise of an elector should they acquiesce to that veiled threat out of fear of losing funding for their local community. I, therefore, believe that this could constitute undue influence under Section 115 of the 1983 Act.
Furthermore, it is my belief that this statement constitutes a matter with respect to “valuable consideration”, it being a legal consideration having some economic value. On this basis, I believe it may fall under section 113 of the same act.
On this basis, I would formally request that your office look into this matter,
Martin James Keatings
 Representation of the People Act 1983