By a Newsnet reporter
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has been found guilty of breaking rules over donations and fined £400 after the Electoral Commission ruled that almost £15,000 gifted to her leadership campaign had not been registered on time.
The MSP becomes the first ever to be fined by the body over donations and is a further blow to a leadership that has witnessed several gaffes from the inexperienced former BBC reporter.
The Glasgow list MSP was handed two fines of £200 each after twice missing a 30 day deadline in registering two donations in October, the Commission could have imposed fines of £5000.
In total the Electoral Commission looked into the failure to declare £14,500 of donations to her leadership campaign as required by law. James Stewart donated £2000 to her campaign and a further £12,500 was donated by wealthy Tory donor Brian Gillies.
Electoral Commission records show the former BBC Scotland reporter declared four campaign donations totalling £29,500 – greatly helping her win, by a narrow margin, the Conservative Holyrood leadership race on November 4th, 2011.
According to the Electoral Commission database, she received two donations on September 19th but did not report the sums until November 21st – well after the leadership race, and more than a month after the legal deadline for reporting donations.
Ms Davidson’s leadership has been dogged by a series of blunders and previously supportive Scottish Conservatives are now openly criticising the novice MSP.
Her leadership triumph sparked bitter accusations from her three rivals who demanded an independent probe into whether Davidson's campaign had received unfair help from the party hierarchy – Davidson was reported to be the favourite of the London Tory hierarchy.
The SNP seized on the guilty verdict by claiming that if their leader in Scotland can’t even run her own leadership contest properly, the Tories should not be trusted to run the anti-independence campaign.
Kenneth Gibson MSP, Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee, said the fines were a “humiliation” and added:
"With the Tories leading the No campaign this raises serious concerns about the financing of the anti-independence camp if they can’t even be trusted with adhering to financial rules in small internal campaigns.
"The Tories will be wondering if they voted for the wrong leader and the anti-independence parties must be cringing reading the papers today.
"It is also a further setback for the Tories after their feeble showing at the council elections in May when their vote fell back in Scotland even from their low water mark of 2007."
At last week’s First Ministers Questions, Ms Davidson was mocked by Alex Salmond after she claimed that it was SNP policy to have the Financial Services Authority (FSA) regulate Scottish banks in an independent Scotland.
Mr Salmond chided the Tory leader by reminding her that the FSA would not exist as it was shortly to be abolished, something that was announced by Ms Davidson’s own party colleague Chancellor George Osborne in June 2010.