SCOTTISH Nationalists were today accused of misleading voters after issuing leaflets which talk about an “SNP by-election” and tell people they are being asked to choose a “replacement SNP councillor”.
Voters in Liberton/Gilmerton are due to go to the polls on June 20 to elect a new councillor following the death of the SNP’s Tom Buchanan – but the by-election is an open contest involving Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Greens, Ukip, the Pirate Party and an independent as well as the Nationalists.
However, the SNP leaflet says: “Sadly Councillor Tom Buchanan passed away recently and on June 20th you’ll be asked to vote in a local election to find a replacement SNP councillor for our area.”
Voter Kay Jenkinson, 72, said she was shocked when she read the leaflet put through her door earlier this week.
She said: “We know most political parties, if not all, can be strangers to accuracy but this is just ridiculous.
“It’s not an SNP by-election. I don’t wish any harm to the candidate, but it’s just wrong.”
Ms Jenkinson, from Moredun Park Drive, added: “Tom Buchanan was very well thought of in the area. He was a decent, hard-working councillor.
“But this leaflet is at the very least inaccurate and I can’t help feeling it’s deliberately worded to influence people.”
SNP candidate Derek Howie denied the leaflet was misleading – but admitted the description of the contest as an SNP by-election was “obviously an error”.
He said: “It’s not an SNP by-election, it’s a council by-election. There’s probably nothing we can do about it. They are all printed. I don’t think there is any attempt to mislead and I don’t think anyone will be misled.”
And he said there was nothing wrong in saying voters were to choose “a replacement SNP councillor”, adding: “We’re trying to replace Tom Buchanan with another SNP councillor. I’m not sure that’s terribly misleading.”
Labour candidate Keith Robson said he had been surprised at the leaflet. He said: “My first thought was, how on earth can they get away with that? But I’m just concentrating on campaigning.”
However, a senior Labour source said the SNP were taking voters for fools. “They would like people to believe this is a one-party state and they can only vote SNP.
“In fact, people in Liberton/Gilmerton have an abundant choice of candidates and should be allowed to go into the election without politicians trying to pull the wool over their eyes.”
The city council said the Returning Officer, who is in charge of the by-election, had no remit to monitor campaign materials. A spokeswoman added: “However we would note that the vacancy is for a councillor to represent the Liberton/Gilmerton Ward on the city council.”
The Electoral Commission said campaign material could not resemble a poll card or contain a false statement about the personal character or conduct of another candidate but it had no power to adjudicate on the content of leaflets.