THE country’s leading anti-independence campaign has been accused of trying to “bully” the UK elections watchdog after it revealed the organisation was under investigation.

Scotland in Union wrongly claimed the Electoral Commission has issued a “misleading” statement and demanded an apology after the Herald raised questions over its donations.

Chief Executive Pamela Nash also threatened to complain about the Commission’s actions, and wrongly claimed it had been “proactively” briefing the media about her organisation.

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The outburst is detailed in a memo by Bob Posner, the Electoral Commission’s Director of Political Finance and Regulation and Legal Counsel, on January 5, which has now been released under Freedom of Information law.

It was written after the Herald published an investigation into Scotland in Union’s finances, based in part on a leaked database of donations to the cross-party outfit.

Police yesterday raided the home of David Clews, a former Scotland in Union employee who set up the Unionist splinter group UK Unity, and seized computer equipment.

Officers are probing the leak of the database to pro-independence websites last year.

The leak showed that Scotland in Union (SIU), which opposes a second referendum, received more than 14 donations above the £7500 threshold for public registration, yet none had been reported by the Electoral Commission.

In total, more than £150,000 was received by SIU during the “regulated periods” running up to the 2015 and 2017 general elections, and the 2016 Holyrood election.

Most of the donations before the last election were payments for lavish auction lots, including stays at African safari lodges and Alpine skiing chalets, at an SIU dinner in 2016.

SIU argued that because the money was not donated for the specific purpose of election campaigning, it did not need to be declared - and this is a legitimate point covered by Electoral Commission guidance.

However in a statement to the Herald, the Commission said it was reviewing SIU’s case.

It said: “We consider and assess possible breaches of the rules consistent with our published Enforcement Policy and we are reviewing the matter.”

The matter is still under review a month later.

The FoI release shows Ms Nash, a former Labour MP, appeared unsure of the law, and asked the Commission for clarification on the day of the Herald’s coverage.

On January 5, she sent an email marked “in confidence” asking the Commission to confirm the period in which donations over a certain value had to be reported for the 2017 election.

Ms Nash wrote: “I understand this to be the 3rd May 2017 to 8th June 2017.”

The reporting period was actually 9 June 2016 to 8 June 2017.

Ms Nash also asked to “clarify the rules around successful auction bids at fundraising events for non-party campaigners”, even though the Commission publishes guidance on the point.

Later that day, she called Mr Posner about the Commission’s statement to the Herald.

In a later email to Commission colleagues, Mr Posner said: “PN considers that we should have responded to her email today and that our media line today is misleading.

“I explained that we are not obliged to provide an advice service by immediate responses... also that our media line is not misleading, it is in fact accurate, irrespective of her concern on how some elements of the media might choose to report matters.

“I also corrected her assertion that we had been speaking pro-actively to the media, explaining that our Comms team had simply responded to media query received.

“PN thought we should apologise for not responding to her email and our media line. I said I could not see that was appropriate as we are doing our job as regulator in a normal way.

“PN said she might or would complain further. I said we have a complaints process. I said I respected her concerns, but I doubted I would be able to allay them from her perspective.

“I said we were not responsible for how the media accurately or otherwise report matters. The line went dead at PNs end of the line.”

The FoI release also revealed that in November, the Commission found evidence SIU broke electoral rules because of a “missing donations return” for the 2017 election.

However the Commission “concluded it was not proportionate or in the public interest... to open an investigation is view of the particular circumstances of the case”.

SNP MSP George Adam said: “This memo suggests Scotland in Union sought to bully and intimidate the independent Electoral Commission, who were simply looking into legitimate concerns over donations and bookkeeping.

“The Commission is there as a watchdog to ensure that political funding is properly regulated in accordance with the rules. This sort of browbeating of an independent body carrying out its job is inappropriate at best, if not downright sinister.

“Clearly the concerns raised, however uncomfortable for Scotland in Union, must be properly reviewed. It’s remarkable that Labour and the Tories can continue to align themselves with such a discredited, and frankly unpleasant, arch-unionist front.”

A Scotland in Union spokesperson said: "This is another pathetic misrepresentation of the facts by the SNP.

"As you would expect, we have regular and constructive dialogue with the Electoral Commission to ensure we comply with its guidelines."