Nicola Sturgeon has suggested that Theresa May called for the snap election in part to avoid the consequences of criminal investigations into allegations that the Conservatives carried out expenses fraud in 2015.
Speaking at the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) in Aviemore on Monday afternoon, Scotland's first minister said June's snap election was called by the Conservatives in an attempt to evade "accountability" for the allegations.
The Electoral Commission fined Conservatives £70,000 last month after its investigation concluded there were "significant failures" by the party to accurately report how much it had spent at the last general election.
Channel 4 News reported last week that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was considering criminal charges against more than 30 people, including Conservative MPs, over election expenses.
Speaking at the STUC in Aviemore, Sturgeon said the prime minister's motivation to call the election was both to "crush dissent" in the Westminster parliament, and to avoid accountability over the alleged expenses fraud.
“We are of course at the start of a general election campaign," said the first minister. "A campaign called by the prime minister last week for one purpose and one purpose only: to strengthen the grip of the Tory party and crush dissent and opposition, and to do so before possible criminal prosecutions for alleged expenses fraud at the last general election catches up with her.
"Whatever else happens at this election, we should not allow the Tory party to escape the accountability for any misdemeanours that may have led to them buying the last general election.”
Sturgeon's intervention follows that of some of her MPs in the SNP, who suggested that the prime minister's "U-turn" on holding an election was a result of her fear that there would be further repercussions for the alleged expenses fraud.
A source from the CPS told BuzzFeed News last week that the MPs who face criminal charges will find out if they're being charged before the general election on 8 June.
A Conservative Party spokesperson said:
“CCHQ has always taken the view that its nationally directed battlebus campaign – a highly-publicised and visible activity with national branding – was part of its national return, and it would have no reason not to declare it as such, given that the Party was £2 million below the national spending threshold.
They went on: “The Electoral Commission report makes clear that our interpretation of the guidance was correct, stating: ‘The Commission has found no evidence to suggest that the Party had funded the Battlebus2015 campaign with the intention that it would promote or procure the electoral success of candidates’ (para. 106).
“MPs in constituencies visited by the battlebus would have no reason to consider whether it should be included in their local return – they were directed that the bus would be visiting as part of CCHQ’s national spending."
They added: “The ongoing investigations relate to national spending by CCHQ and the national Party will continue to co-operate with the police and other authorities so that the matter can be resolved as soon as possible.”
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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