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Scottish European election candidates demand answers on Brexit party funding

File photo dated 29/6/2016 of thousands of Remain supporters gather outside the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, to show their support for the European Union in the wake of Brexit. The Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said a new independence referendum should be held between autumn 2018 and spring 2019. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday March 13, 2017. See PA story POLITICS Brexit Scotland. Photo credit should read: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

By Lewis McKenzie, Political Reporter, Press Association Scotland

The Brexit Party in Scotland has been pushed to answer questions over its financial dealings.

Jim Ferguson was quizzed on the issue during a debate on STV's Scotland Tonight programme on Monday.

Meanwhile, a review was launched by the Electoral Commission into the Brexit Party's financial systems over payments made to Nigel Farage, with a visit to the party's headquarters scheduled for Tuesday.

Former prime minister Gordon Brown called for an investigation into the finances of Mr Farage and the Brexit Party, warning democracy would be undermined if payments were not declared.

Last week, Arron Banks, the founder of pro-Brexit group Leave.EU, confirmed a payment of £450,000 had been made to Mr Farage in the year after the Brexit referendum.

Speaking on Scotland Tonight, Scottish Green candidate Maggie Chapman asked Mr Ferguson about the funding.

Ms Chapman said: "You come here talking about honesty in politics. We know that Brexit is driven by the desire of the very wealthy to escape new regulations on tax avoidance.

"Tell us, who is funding you? And can you tell us that you're not being funded by people who want to starve our public services of taxes?"

Mr Ferguson replied: "Well that's just utter nonsense, which I absolutely refute.

"We are not a party of wealth. The membership of our base, the grass roots, pay £25 for their membership. We are made up of ordinary people."

When it was contested that in fact, people pay to support the party, as opposed to becoming members, Mr Ferguson said: "Well, support, but the point is that we are grass roots, we are beyond a political party."

Asked whether Mr Farage had been funded by Mr Banks, Mr Ferguson claimed the payment had nothing to do with politics.

"That's an entirely private matter," he said, when asked about the payment.

"He doesn't have to declare it (the payment). It's nothing to do with the political arena."

Scottish Labour candidate David Martin said: "So Nigel gets a bung of £450,000 from Arron Banks.

"Ratings agencies say Brexit, before we even leave, has cost us £66 billion - £1,000 for every person in this country.

"So Nigel's OK, what about the rest of us?"

Mr Ferguson said: "I think you're being deeply unkind to Nigel, I have to say.

"Since the referendum was declared, GDP has increased substantially, job creation has increased substantially.

"All that we are saying is that we can be prosperous."

SNP candidate Alyn Smith told Mr Ferguson: "Your lead candidate in the upcoming election, his name is misspelt on the ballot paper because the party official doesn't know who he is and none of you actually know who each other is.

"Your party doesn't have a manifesto, your party didn't exist, it's a shell company right now, you've got dodgy donations on your website.

"You talk about honesty, would you like to declare who's actually funding you right now and what you want to do to Scotland's public services?"

Mr Ferguson said: "I find that quite incredible. Louis Stedman-Bryce (the party's lead candidate) - we all know each other, we are all candidates.

"To say we don't know we don't know who we are - of course we know each other."

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