EXCLUSIVE

Tom Gordon

Scottish Political Editor

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POLICE have been asked to investigate Jim Murphy's spin doctor as part of an ongoing inquiry into whether No campaigners broke electoral law by snooping on postal ballots in the referendum.

A member of the public last week urged Police Scotland to question Susan Dalgety, Scottish Labour's new Director of Communications, after the Sunday Herald revealed she had discussed the content of secret postal votes online.

The force has already questioned Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson after she bragged on live TV that "tallies" of postal votes were made in the run-up to the referendum, despite it being a criminal offence to try to find out how someone voted by post or to communicate such information.

The Sunday Herald revealed last week how Dalgety, 58, had commented on postal ballots just half an hour after the polls closed on September 18.

She told a political webcast: "I know that the early postal ballot results are very positive for No - and there was a huge number of postal ballots - anything could happen."

Some 800,000 people, or 19% of participants, voted by post in the referendum.

To help confirm dates of birth and signatures on these ballots matched official records, sample openings were held around the country ahead of polling day, which agents from political parties and registered campaigns were allowed to attend.

Observers were reminded of a strict "requirement for secrecy" and issued with a copy of Schedule 7 of the 2013 Scottish Referendum Act, which states that anyone convicted of trying to ascertain the outcome of a postal ballot "or communicate any information with respect thereto" faces a fine of up to £5000 or a year in prison.

Despite the secrecy rule, Davidson boasted on TV just 45 minutes after the polls closed that the Unionist side had had people "taking tallies and the reports have been very positive for us".

Her remarks sparked complaints to the Electoral Commission and the Crown Office instructing the police to launch an investigation.

She was interviewed by officers as a potential witness in October - an experience which may now await Dalgety, a former spin doctor to Labour First Minister Jack McConnell.

An SNP source said: "Jim Murphy has made some very questionable appointments, which cast his party in a negative light. As well as being embarrassing, this issue takes Labour back to when they were joined at the hip with the Tories - it seems like they were sharing all sorts of information."

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: "Susan Dalgety made her comments based on her extensive experience of elections and postal votes.

"It is not an offence to make an observation."

Police Scotland said: "We have previously confirmed that Crown Counsel has instructed Police Scotland to commence an investigation into alleged breaches of Schedule 7, Paragraph 7, of the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013.

"Police Scotland will not comment on anyone who may or may not have been spoken to or interviewed as part of any ongoing investigation."