A SHADOWY group that funded pro-Brexit campaigning in Northern Ireland and is planning to bankroll opposition to independence is refusing to disclose who is behind its Scottish donations.

However, Richard Cook, the frontman for the mysterious Constitutional Research Council (CRC), revealed for the first time that Scots had contributed financially and said the group is considering funding pro-Union causes at the general election.

He declined to name either the CRC members or donors, and described media stories about his links to Saudi Arabia as “fake news”.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland recently became embroiled in a major political row after receiving around £425,000 from the CRC ahead of the Brexit vote.

Due to normal disclosure laws not applying in Northern Ireland, the DUP did not have to say that the cash came from the CRC.

The DUP voluntarily confirmed that the CRC was the source, but the names of the business people who gave the money to the Council have never been identified.

It emerged that Cook, a former Scottish Tory candidate who lives in Clarkston, is one of the key CRC figures.

Earlier this year, he said that the CRC was set up to promote the Union and fund pro-UK activity if there was a second referendum.

The revelations raised concerns about secret donors having a major impact on elections across the UK.

Speaking to the Sunday Herald, Cook said: “The CRC is regulated by the Electoral Commission. We operate solely in the UK. We accept donations only from eligible UK donors. We donate solely to permissible UK entities. Any suggestion that we have done anything else is basically defamatory.”

On how the CRC decides whether to fund a pro-UK cause, he said: “The process is quite simple: people come to us with projects [and] they tell us how it is promoting the Union. The Executive Committee assess that and will decide. I don’t decide on my own. I’m just part of the process.”

Asked whether the CRC would be funding any parties in the general election, he said: “So far we have not actually spent any money on the general election. We’ve got some applications and there’s a meeting taking place this week.”

On whether there had been any Scottish applications for funding during the general election, he said: “There have been no applications from anyone in the Scottish Conservative Party”.

Pushed on whether there had been any applications relating to Scotland more broadly, he said: “There have been no directly Scottish applications.”

Cook remained tight-lipped on the identities of CRC donors and members: “I’m not going to get into the donors, like I am not going to get into the members.”

However, asked if any Scots had donated to the CRC, he replied “Yes.”

Quizzed on how many Scots had made financial contributions, he stated: “Paul, I shouldn’t have said yes there, so I am not going to go into any more.”

On how much money had been donated to the CRC since 2014, he said: “I’m not going to get into that.”

Asked if it was over £1m, he replied: “Not going to get into that.”

Cook confirmed the CRC had a second independence referendum in its sights: “The reason we set up a CRC was to start promoting the Union in all its constituent parts. Naturally, therefore, if there’s going to be another independence referendum, whether that’s a referendum for independence in Scotland, or for a United Ireland, or a separate Wales…...we would seek to have an involvement in raising funds.”

The former candidate said he had not received any income from the CRC, explaining: “I just run a small consultancy company, doing some waste energy stuff internationally.”

He added that he is “working with some people in Glasgow, just helping their businesses out”.

Cook told this newspaper he had spent little time in Ulster: “I have been in Northern Ireland once in the last year. Twice in the last two years. And twice in the last six years.”

Previous articles on Cook’s business past have mentioned a company that he and a figure in Saudi Arabia were involved in.

He said: “It’s all just fake news. It’s ludicrous to suggest that some Saudi guys have come in.”

He added: “I have never received a single penny from anyone in Saudi Arabia in my life.”

Blair McDougall, the Labour candidate in East Renfrewshire and former head strategist of Better Together, said: "Anonymous donations were supposed to be left behind when Labour created the Electoral Commission. It was bad enough that nearly half a million pounds of unaccounted for donations was used in the EU referendum. It would be totally wrong if this secret money was used by the Tories in the General Election."