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SNP and Tories clash over independence survey rules

The Electoral Commission have dismissed claims by the Tories the material breaches electoral law.

By STV News

Published 02 Sep 2016.

The Scottish Conservatives and the SNP have clashed over an independence survey launched by Nicola Sturgeon on Friday.

Sturgeon launched her party's "national conversation" on independence in a speech to the party's MSPs, MPs and MEPs in Stirling.

The party hopes to speak to around two million people between Friday and November 30, St Andrew's Day.

SNP members have been tasked with ensuring they get at least five people to fill out the survey each month.

The Scottish Conservatives claimed the leaflet may break electoral law.

Chief whip John Lamont wrote to the Electoral Commission and the information commissioner complaining the survey material "is designed without the SNP logo or colours and uses a colour scheme that looks like an official Scottish Government document".

Conservative leader Ruth Davidson tweeted: "@theSNP Activist guide has no imprint & survey no data sharing opt out box. @John2Win 's written to EC & info comm".

A press release was also issued to the media to publicise Lamont's complaint.

Fergus Mutch, the SNP's head of communications, tweeted pictures of the leaflet to the Scottish Tory leader.

They showed it was labelled with the SNP logo, imprinted with the party's address and also had a return envelope addressed to the "Scottish National Party".

The Electoral Commission have rejected John Lamont's complaint.

A spokesperson for the commission said: "The law states that only election material that seeks to promote a political party or category of candidates at relevant elections is legally an 'imprint'.

"The contents of the 'activist guide' associated with 'the national survey' do not seek to do this and therefore does not require an imprint.

"We will be writing to John Lamont MSP to inform him of the reasons behind our decisions".

The SNP said it was a second "major embarrassment" for the Scottish Conservatives' press office in 24 hours.

On Thursday, the SNP accused the party of "xenophobic nonsense" over a reference to French-born former SNP MSP Christian Allard's nationality in a press release issued to STV News.

The Scottish Greens described the comment as "casual racism".

SNP chief whip Bill Kidd said: "Ruth Davidson urgently needs to get a grip of her party.

"First her press office was blowing a xenophobic dog whistle against EU citizens and now the latest mince from the Tories is a baseless, time-wasting complaints to the Electoral Commission that have no basis in reality.

"For someone who constantly insists that she's only interested in focusing on the big issues, Ms Davidson must be pretty embarrassed by this petty boomerang attack.

"Ruth Davidson promised to be a strong opposition leader but it appears that she can't even keep a handle on her right-wing rabble of MSPs or her own press office."

In response to the SNP's comments, the Scottish Conservatives said they have taken "legal advice" over the survey.

The party believe the online survey is in breach of the Data Protection Act 1998.

Lamont said: "There are serious question marks over this SNP survey.

"We will now be raising this with the information commissioner".