Scottish Conservative leader broke spam laws
November 8, 2011Ruth Davidson's victorious leadership campaign sent unsolicted emails to party members, but data protection watchdog is not pressing charges
The Information Commissioner's Offfice has criticised the new leader of the Scottish Conservative party after her leadership campaign sent unsolicited emails to the private addresses of party members.
Ruth Davidson was named as the new leader of the party on Friday, after what the Sunday Herald described as "a bitter campaign".
The ICO investigated the use of unsolicited emails in Davidson's campaign following a complaint from a local Tory councillor. It found that the campaign had breached the 2003 Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), banning direct emails sent without the recipient's consent, and that it may also have breached the Data Protection Act.
The data protection watchdog will not be taking any legal action Davidson's campaign, it said, but it will "retain the details of the complaint and…take it into account" in the event of further complaints.
The Sunday Herald reported that the ICO's warning had "fuelled calls for an independent investigation into allegations the party hierarchy was biased in favour of Davidson". It also said that rival campaigns had accused Davidson of using a contacts database supplied by the Conservative party. However, the Davidson campaign said that the ICO had dismissed this allegation.
The news is the latest in a string of data protection worries for the government and the Conservative party. Last week, Vince Cable apologised for an "unacceptable breach of privacy" after it was revealed that recycling bags containing sensitive documents were regularly left outside his constituency office over a period of several months. In September, Tory MP and government minister Oliver Letwin was criticised after discarding sensitive documents in a public bin in St James' Park. The ICO was notified in both cases.