ONE of the loudest and most controversial Yes supporters in the referendum could be charged with a criminal offence over missing financial papers, the Electoral Commission has said.
The watchdog said that, alongside prosecutors, it was now considering whether to take enforcement action against the Wings Over Scotland website run from Bath by Scots-born Stuart Campbell.
It emerged last month that Wings Over Scotland and four smaller campaigners had failed to report their spending during the referendum.
Using Freedom of Information law, the Sunday Herald asked the Commission for the material it held on Wings Over Scotland and another high-profile campaigner, Labour for Independence (LFI), not filing spending returns.
In both instances, the Commission refused to release its files in case it prejudiced “the prevention or detection of crime” and “the apprehension or prosecution of offenders”.
With respect to Wings over Scotland, it said: “The Commission has commenced its inquiries and is currently considering, in conjunction with the Crown Office, what, if any, action is appropriate in relation to this organisation’s failure to deliver a campaign expenditure return with the required timescale.
“In this case it is necessary to consider the failure to comply in order to reach a decision whether a person or person should be charged with a criminal offence.”
The Commission used the same form of words about LFI, but added that in regard to Wings Over Scotland it might also consider civil breaches.
Both Wings over Scotland and LFI are being probed in relation to Paragraph 21 of Schedule 4 of the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013.
This states that official campaigners - those who registered with the Commission as permitted participants as they expected to spend more than £10,000 - must file a return detailing all their payments, loans, receipts and invoices.
The responsible person commits an offence punishable by a fine of up to £5000 if they fail to comply with the law on filing a return.
A person who “knowingly or recklessly makes a false declaration” commits an offence punishable by up to a year in prison.
The responsible person for Wings Over Scotland is Campbell, 47, a former computer games journalist who styles himself as a Reverend but refuses to say for which church or faith.
For LFI it is Deborah Waters, 42, from Barrhead, the wife of East Renfrewshire SNP councillor Vincent Waters.
Campbell said Wings Over Scotland spent around £75,000 during the referendum on campaigning, including production of the popular Wee Blue Book, but was unable to complete the spending return form as it does not have full invoices and receipts.
Asked about a possible criminal charge, he said: “We've heard nothing from the Electoral Commission since they published details of participants' spending.
“We did everything in our power, both before and after the deadline, to communicate with them and provide evidence to back up the full account of our spending that we submitted, and we continue to do so.
“All of our expenditure is fully verifiable, and we remain willing to verify it to the Commission by any means possible within the laws of science."
Waters could not be contacted.