Scotland politics

Former Tory candidate speaks out over Scots MEP list row

Belinda Don Image copyright Belinda Don
Image caption Belinda Don has sent a draft writ to the party threatening legal action

A former Scottish Conservative candidate who has threatened legal action against the party has accused them of trying to overturn an election.

Belinda Don was originally placed second on the party's list for the European Parliament elections in 2014.

However, the party wants to pass over her in the selection process to replace Ian Duncan, who is standing down as an MEP to work for the Scotland Office.

The Tories said Mrs Don was no longer on their "approved candidates" list.

The party is understood to want Iain McGill, the fifth candidate on their list, to replace Mr Duncan as their MEP.

Mrs Don served as an advisor and parliamentary assistant to former Tory MEP Struan Stevenson for 12 years.

It was reported at the time that Mr Stevenson wanted Mrs Don to be first on the list to replace him when he retired ahead of the 2014 election. The top spot eventually went to Mr Duncan, but he is now leaving Brussels as he is to be given a place in the House of Lords so he can become a Scotland Office minister.

She has not yet filed legal papers at the Court of Session, as Mr Duncan is still currently in place as an MEP. However, she said there were "unequivocal legal arguments" on her side.

Image copyright Ian Duncan
Image caption Ian Duncan is to quit as an MEP after being appointed to the House of Lords to become a Scotland Office minister

Speaking out about the row for the first time, she said she was "deeply saddened that the leadership of the Conservative Party in Scotland seems to think that it is somehow acceptable to overturn the results of an election".

She said: "This is not just an internal party issue, but one that goes to the very heart of our democracy - they are trying to overturn an election result. In the 2014 European elections my name was on the ballot paper as number two on the list and 231,000 Scottish Conservatives voted for that list in that order.

"Having not received any reassurances that the list order will be respected in these new circumstances, I have prepared a draft writ to demonstrate the unequivocal legal arguments that apply.

"Ms Davidson is now in receipt of this draft writ, and I trust she will now see that the law is clear: the Conservative party does not have any right to remove people from the MEP list on a whim."

'Approved candidates'

The Conservatives contend that to be elected for the party, a candidate must be not only on the relevant list held by the election returning officer, but on the party's own approved list of candidates - a list Ms Don is understood to have been removed from.

A spokesman said: "To become the European Parliament candidate for a region you must be on the approved Scottish Conservative candidates list."

However, Mrs Don contended that she had "remained totally loyal" to the party since the list selection in 2013.

She said: "I have no wish to prolong this regrettable public dispute and remain hopeful that once she is in receipt of clear legal advice, Ms Davidson will see her present course of action is contrary to the law.

"I also press her to take note of natural justice and democracy: no political party should ever seek to ignore the will of their members or the electorate as expressed at both their internal and external elections."

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