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Election law probed over trader’s £100 voucher offer to vote down Peterhead Bid

Keith Bennett outside his glasses shop, now called Spex Shop. He is offering business owners who vote down the renewal of the Peterhead Bid £100 store credit.
Keith Bennett outside his glasses shop, now called Spex Shop. He is offering business owners who vote down the renewal of the Peterhead Bid £100 store credit.

Legal experts are thought to be rifling through law books over a Peterhead trader’s plans to bring down the town’s business improvement district.

Glasses salesman Keith Bennett has publicly offered any town centre business owner £100 in-store credit if they vote to wind up Rediscover Peterhead in the looming ballot on its future.

Sources now allege the attempt vote winner could be viewed as treating – an electoral offence dating back to the 19th Century.

First established in 2017, the business improvement district (Bid) has proven controversial among the traders who voted down the proposals – to be beaten by only 12 votes.

A fresh poll on whether to have a Bid must be held once every five years, since its executives have the power to impose levies on qualifying businesses.

Optician’s 100 reasons not to renew Peterhead bid

Mr Bennett, owner of Spex Shop in Marischal Street, previously told Aberdeen Journals he would not stump up the additional cost – worth around £300 to most of the town centre’s businesses.

And now he has taken to social media in an attempt to sway business owners who may be on the fence.

Writing on Facebook, he said: “If you’re angry or disappointed with this whole Bid thing or don’t feel you’ve gained anything from it despite being forced to pay money into it every year, then I will give you something for doing the right thing and voting to get rid of it at the next ballot.

“I will give £100 in credit at my shop to anyone who does the right thing and votes against another five-year term for Rediscover Peterhead Limited.

“If you don’t wear glasses you can sell or give away your £100, it is up to you.

“All you have to do is bring your postal vote to me already filled in saying you vote no and let me post it for you.”

He denied his generous offer amounted to “bribery” or “election fraud, pure and simple”, as it was branded by other residents.

Lawyers scour the books over suspected ‘treating’ in Peterhead Bid vote

But now, we can reveal local authority officials are understood to have approached Scotland’s Towns Partnership to ascertain if next year’s ballot is covered by electoral law.

It is unsure ground for those at Aberdeenshire Council tasked with overseeing the upcoming poll on the Bid’s future.

But a source told Aberdeen Journals that Scotland’s Town Partnership – effectively the ruling body for the country’s business improvement districts – was being sounded out on the legal nuance.

If the vote is covered by the Representation Of The People Act, his £100 offer might be viewed as treating.

The Electoral Commission defines the crime as – either before, during or after an election or referendum – directly or indirectly giving, providing or paying for any food, drink, entertainment or other provision in order to influence votes.

It comes as the local authority told Aberdeen Journals its legal officers were considering advice on remarks from Peterhead North And Rattray councillor Alan Buchan, accusing the council of using the Bid as an “extortion racket” – claims they said were “without foundation”.

A Rediscover Peterhead spokesman declined to comment on the Facebook post, viewing Mr Bennett’s remarks as the latest in a long run of criticism levelled at the organisation.

The dispensing optician was approached for comment.

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