Sunday Times implies SNP could be "treating" and "paying canvassers in kind"
Today's Sunday Times carries a rather pointless article written by a journalist who infiltrated Labour's Glasgow East campaign posing as a volunteer.
It could have been a description of the experience of volunteering on any campaign in any English-speaking democracy in the last 100 years, for any party: you go to a temporary office, they give you some leaflets and a blurred map, you go out and deliver them, you come back and if the Agent knows their stuff you get your arm twisted to do another round as well. Welcome to the glamorous world of the campaign trail!
What the journo has totally missed is an implication he himself has made of two possible election offences by the SNP.
He writes that SNP volunteers "are rewarded with free food and drink." That's quite a serious allegation to make during an election campaign.
The legal guidance Labour Party Agents get makes it quite clear that this is an area where you could find yourself on the wrong side of the law:
"The ‘treating’ of electors is a corrupt practice and you must be very careful that it is avoided.
A person shall be guilty of ‘treating’ if s/he, either before during or after an election, directly or indirectly provides any food, drink or entertainment, to influence that person to vote or refrain from voting at that election. Free food and drink should not be provided at public meetings or
meetings of supporters. A charge should be made for any food or drink provided to avoid any possibility of treating.
Agents should also take care that any provision of refreshments for election workers, which may be seen as ‘payment in kind’ are treated as such and could not be interpreted as ‘treating’. In the case of members canvassing the public on the phone or the doorstep, it would be illegal to pay them for this work. It is therefore important that provision of refreshments for these workers is an occasional expression of gratitude and that it is quite clear that they are not promised in advance as an inducement to do this work."
i.e. if the Sunday Times is correct in stating that SNP canvassers are "rewarded with free food and drink" then they may have broken the law prohibiting payment of canvassers (an "illegal practice") and, if the canvassers live in the constituency, broken the law prohibiting "treating" (i.e. bribery with food and drink) of electors (a "corrupt practice"). These are very serious offences, conviction of which can carry jail sentances, heavy fines and bans from holding public office.
Of course it is far more likely that the Sunday Times journalist has misunderstood, and the alleged vast army of SNP activists are not fed and watered on a regular basis by their campaign, and when and if they are, a careful effort is made to check that no one resident in the constituency benefits. I'd like to believe even the SNP is not as ignorant of election law as this particular Sunday Times journalist.
I do hope the Sunday Times will issue a clarification, or put as much effort into investigating their own allegation as they did into infiltrating the Labour campaign.