Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Academic Elliot Bulmer says newspaper fee 'not a bung'

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Media captionDr Elliot Bulmer said he was happy to write The Herald article

An academic has insisted the fee he received from the pro-independence Yes Scotland campaign to write a newspaper article was not a "bung."

Dr Elliot Bulmer, a research director of the Constitutional Commission, told the BBC he was paid £100 as compensation for his time.

News of the payment emerged from an internal Yes Scotland email which the organisation claimed had been hacked.

The pro-Union Better Together group believed the payment was a bung.

Its campaign director, Blair McDougall, further questioned: "What other supposedly independent voices are being paid bungs to say what the nationalists want? What else are they willing to do to deceive the people of Scotland?"

In response to accusations over the payment, Dr Bulmer said he was approached by Yes Scotland and asked to write a piece for The Herald on the constitution in an independent Scotland.

He explained he was happy to do it.

Dr Bulmer added: "I did suggest that a small payment be made, not to buy my services of writing it, but simply as compensation for my time.

"I was paid £100 which is well below, I am sure people are aware, of the market rate for this kind of work and if I hadn't accepted that sort of fee then questions could have been asked on the other side as to whether I was giving preferential treatment by giving them free work.

"It was a small fee for compensation for my time and certainly not the bung that it has been described by some."

The Herald confirmed it was offered an article for its opinion pages by a constitutional expert, which was accepted "in good faith".

A spokesman added: "We declined a request for payment and the author's background was made clear to our readers.

"The Herald and Times Group was not aware of any payment by Yes Scotland."

The official independence campaign group went public about the fee after learning that details relating to it were contained in an email which it said had been unlawfully accessed.

The police are now investigating the allegation that an email account linked to Yes Scotland had been hacked on a number of occasions.

The head of Yes Scotland, Blair Jenkins, believed the real issue was that the campaign for an independent Scotland was "under attack from a force or forces unknown".

The former TV chief, added: "Make no mistake, what this amounts to is an attack on democracy.

"What is extremely disappointing is the reaction so far from our opponents who appear to prefer to dabble in manufactured outrage about a perfectly legitimate fee that was paid to an academic freelance writer rather than condemning this extremely serious, criminal activity.

"The people of Scotland deserve much better."

Voters in Scotland will got to the polls on Thursday, 18 September, next year to decide on whether their country should be independent. They will be asked a straight yes/no question.

Dr Bulmer, who is a former Royal Navy officer, is currently a research director of the Constitutional Commission which was formed in 2005 to promote "democratic citizenship" and to undertake constitutional education and research.

Charity status

He wrote a book titled "A Model Constitution for Scotland: Making Democracy Work in an Independent State".

Image caption The Herald piece by Elliot Bulmer was published in the paper's opinion section

On his LinkedIn page he details his media relations role while serving with the Royal Navy.

He has written extensively in the press, including for the Guardian newspaper. Dr Bulmer has also been featured as an expert on television, including on the BBC's Newsnight Scotland.

Meanwhile, Better Together is now questioning whether the Constitutional Commission has broken rules around its charity status.

The organisation states that it is non-partisan and does not "collectively take a stance on independence".

Better Together's Mr McDougall has written to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator calling for an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the payment.

He wrote: "At no time was it suggested that he was writing in a personal capacity. The Constitution Commission also promoted the article in question through their official Twitter account.

"It seems clear that Mr Bulmer did not write this article as a private citizen."

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