McConnell denies involvement in local party finance scandal

17 Oct 02
Scotland's First Minister Jack McConnell was fighting this week to distance himself from a constituency funding scandal that threatens to mar his term of office.

18 October 2002

After allegations of corruption and financial mismanagement in his Motherwell and Wishaw constituency, Labour admitted on October 15 that the local party had breached rules governing donations. It agreed it had accepted a £375 a quarter contribution from the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation without declaring it to the Electoral Commission, as required by law.

The row echoes the Officegate debacle that brought down McConnell's predecessor, Henry McLeish, last year.

McConnell has denied any personal involvement and described events in Motherwell and Wishaw as a 'shocking situation'. He said: 'As first minister, I will always put the law before the Labour Party. That is my duty and my responsibility, and I will make sure that the Labour Party upholds the law.'

Labour launched an inquiry after a local auditor found that up to £11,000 was missing from the local party's accounts and that the books did not tally with bank accounts. The auditor is reported to have complained of major discrepancies in three accounts.

It later emerged that McConnell received cash from a development fund established by the ISTC partially to fund his failed leadership bid in 2000. It also came to light that Christina Marshall, McConnell's personal assistant, was a signatory to the fund.

The Scottish National Party has asked the Electoral Commission to investigate and called for the police to be involved if wrongdoing is suspected.

SNP leader John Swinney said: 'Jack McConnell is not only first minister but leader of the Labour party in Scotland and it is his failures as leader of the Labour party which are now damaging his reputation as first minister.'


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