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SACL fails with election claim

6 June 2008

Scotland Against Crooked Lawyers has failed in a court attempt to recover a lost deposit in the May 2007 Scottish Parliament elections.

The pressure group, a registered political party, brought a small claim against Edinburgh City Council for the £500 deposit it paid for two members to stand in the Lothian list election.

In its statement of claim SACL alleged that it had not been advised of the changes of voting procedure brought in at the election, that as a result of the changes thousands of votes were spoiled, putting it at a disadvantage in the election, and that it would not have paid the deposit had it known about the new procedure.

The action was dismissed by Sheriff Andrew Lothian, whose decision has now been upheld by Sheriff Principal Edward Bowen. So long as the election return stood, the sheriff principal said, the spoiled votes were invalid and did not court. The result could only be challenged by petition to the Court of Session and the action could be seen as a "side door" challenge which the law did not permit.

The council had also carried out a statutory function and produced a legal result, rather than provided a "service" as argued for SACL. Nor was there any burden on it to prove that SACL had not received the 5% of the votes that would have led to the return of the deposit. The action was wholly misconceived.

Sheriff Principal Bowen's decision can be read at http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/SA264807.html .