AN obscure Scottish Tory fundraising group has been fined for breaking electoral law over a £100,000 donation to the party on the eve of the Holyrood election.

The Irvine Unionist Club, which gave the Tories’ North Ayrshire branch the money in March 2016, was fined £400 by the Electoral Commission.

The penalty, which was paid last month, was imposed after the Club failed to notify the Commission on time that it had donated more than £25,000.

The group, which was based at a cottage in Irvine but is apparently now defunct, has given the Scottish Tories almost £130,000 since 2003.

Along with the Scottish Unionist Association Trust, which has given the party £330,000 over the same period, it was accused of being part of a so-called ‘dark money’ network.

Dark money means a political donation whose origin is undeclared or opaque.

The Electoral Commission fined the Irvine Club for “failure to provide notification of gifts to a political party exceeding £25,000, and notification of gifts received by due date”.

The Open Democracy website highlighted the IUC last year, reporting it had given £100,000 to the North Ayrshire Conservative and Unionist Association, and that most of the money had subsequently been forwarded to Scottish Tory HQ in Edinburgh.

The Club 's base was a cottage occupied by David and Jane Belding, both of whom have previously stood as Tory council candidates in North Ayrshire.

SNP MP Pete Wishart said: “The dark money net is now closing in on the Tories as their dodgy and cavalier financial dealings become further exposed and punished.

“This is probably just the first of many examples where the Tories will be found short of what is permissible by the Electoral Commission. The Conservatives need to start to come clean on where this money comes from and how it was acquired."

Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: “This decision raises yet more questions about Tory dark money donations.

"The public has a right to know who is bankrolling these Tories and what these secretive donors expect in return for their large sums of money.

“The Electoral Commission verdict clearly shows Tory donors are not playing by the rules and are seeking to undermine the democratic process.

“It is now time for Ruth Davidson to come clean on who has been funding her party and why.

"Anything less would be an insult.”

Alexandra Runswick, director of transparency campaigners Unlock Democracy, said: “A £400 fine pales in comparison to £100,000 donation.

“If the penalty for breaking the law is going to be so measly then ultimately political parties are going to see this as a price worth paying.

“The tantalising offer extended by dark money donors seems too difficult to resist for political parties, and this is not the first time we’ve seen an attempted cover up.”

A Scottish Tory spokesman said: “The Electoral Commission has investigated the donation, and has concluded that the Trust was not exempt in terms of the.. reporting requirements.

“The Trustees have accepted that they were at fault in failing to register the donation, and have paid the £400 fine.

“The Conservative Party was not investigated nor subject to any fine.”

An Electoral Commission spokesperson said: “Unincorporated associations, such as the Irvine Unionist Club, must register with the Electoral Commission when they make political contributions of more than £25,000 in a calendar year and must report any relevant gifts that they have received.

“This ensures there is transparency about funding of political campaigning. Irvine Unionist Club failed to comply with these rules and the Electoral Commission has fined them £400.”