NOBODY will be prosecuted in connection with the year-long criminal investigation into allegations pro-Union campaigners breached electoral secrecy laws by counting postal votes ahead of the Scottish independence referendum polling day, it has emerged.

A Police Scotland probe into claims of electoral fraud were sparked by live TV comments made by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson that postal vote "tallies" were being taken in the weeks before the ballot closed at 10pm on September 18, last year.

Now the Crown Office has confirmed that the matter for them is "now closed" after Police Scotland said they "do not intend" to report any individuals as "no criminality has been uncovered".

The Herald: United front: From left, Johann Lamont, Alistair Darling, Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie at the Better Together campaign launch United front: From left, Johann Lamont, Alistair Darling, Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie at the Better Together campaign launch

The Crown Office instructed that there should be a formal police probe on October 4, last year, into allegations of breaches of the Scottish Independence Act 2013, surrounding the secrecy of the ballot, after a series of complaints were made surrounding Ms Davidson's comments about the tallies.

Anyone trying to ascertain the outcome of a postal ballot "or communicate any information with respect thereto" faced a fine of up to £5000 or a year in prison.

The decision has been criticised by those who lodged complaints about Ms Davidson's TV description of the postal ballot tallies.

One political activist who was concerned about the lack of transparency over the probe said: "It appeared fudged at the start and it has ended with fudge."

On televised coverage of the referendum results, 45 minutes after the polls closed, Ms Davidson said that the Better Together camp had been "incredibly encouraged" by the results of a "sample opening" of the postal ballot that she said had taken place around the country over the few weeks prior to the poll.

The Herald:

Complaints over her account of the postal vote "tallies" raised concerns the information may have helped inform the No campaign's decision to issue the "vow" of more powers for Scotland from the three main party leaders and help the No campaign to target areas of Scotland that were in danger of falling to Yes.

Ms Davidson was twice spoken to in connection with the inquiry, and Conservative party sources said it was on the basis of her being a witness.

She has since said she had not attended any postal vote opening sessions adding that there were other people who "are mandated" to do that.

Police Scotland previously also confirmed they had received a complaint relating to separate comments made on television by John McTernan, a former Labour Party adviser on Scotland who supported Better Together.

The Herald:

In an interview four days before the polls closed, Mr McTernan, a Labour Party adviser said "postal votes are running very strongly towards No". He later said his conclusions were just "a prediction".

Within minutes of polls closing then Labour spin doctor Susan Dalgety boasted online that postal results were "very positive for No".

Det Insp Glyn Roberts said Police Scotland carried out a full inquiry into what police described as "allegations of electoral wrongdoing and illegality" and added: "After an assessment no evidence of criminality has been uncovered and we do not intend to report anyone in relation to offences under the Act.

The Herald:

"We have been in regular contact with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and they are aware of the findings of the enquiry."

Police Scotland did not respond to questions asking for the rationale of their assessment.

Political agents and campaigners are allowed to oversee the postal vote opening sessions undertaken up to two weeks before ballots close, where checks are made to verify the signatures and dates of birth on postal voting statements against computerised records.

However, Elections Scotland instructions on postal votes in advance of the referendum stated that it is "an offence for anyone attending the opening of postal votes to attempt to ascertain how any vote has been cast or to communicate any such information obtained".

The Herald:

The postal vote, made up between 20% and 50% of the counted votes. Around 800,000 people, or 19% of participants, voted by post in the referendum.

In video footage of Ms Davidson talking about the ballot viewing sent to police, she says: "Postal votes are going to be enormously important in this campaign; about 18 per cent of the vote is going to come out of postal ballots and we have had people at every sample opening, around the country, over the last few weeks, while that's been coming in. And we've been incredibly encouraged by the results."

Later, referring to postal ballots, she said: "Different local authorities have had openings around the country", adding, "there's people in the room that have been sampling those ballot boxes that have been opened and have been taking tallies and the reports have been very positive for us".