Election cost Scottish Voice £21.06 a vote

IT WAS the political party launched with champagne, quail's eggs and no policies.

Yesterday, however, the price of such an extravagant entry to the political scene was laid bare when it emerged that Scottish Voice, founded by political maverick Archie Stirling, had recorded one of the worst electoral returns in British history - spending a massive 21.06 for every vote it received in this year's election.

Figures published by the Electoral Commission revealed Scottish Voice spent 184,920 on its campaign for the Scottish elections this year.

The party received just 8,782 votes and no MSPs, the equivalent of 21.06 for every vote - by far the worst record of any party contesting this year's election.

But yesterday, Mr Stirling vowed to continue, insisting that although he had lost money on the campaign, he was in politics "for the long term" and intended to stand in the next general election and hoped to field many more candidates at the next Scottish election in 2011.

Scottish Voice was set up by Mr Stirling just before the election campaign began in April on a loose platform of change in education and health but without a clear manifesto or a defined place on the political spectrum.

Mr Stirling said he wanted to attract talented people from other fields into politics to change Scotland's political landscape in Scotland and get people of real quality and with ideas into the Scottish Parliament.

But his high-profile campaign failed to register with voters and, as yesterday's figures show, it did not come cheap, with 57,000 spent on market research and canvassing, 36,000 on a media campaign, 32,000 on leaflets for voters and 27,000 on advertising.

Yesterday, Mr Stirling admitted that the huge cost and relatively poor return in votes would be seen by some as a waste of money, but not by him. "If I was doing it as a one-off, then it would be a waste of money but I'm not, I did it as something to build on.

"You have to start somewhere and starting eight weeks before the election, some people said was an error, but I don't believe it was. We got a lot of publicity, got the name into the public domain."

He added: "I did not start this as a vanity exercise. I want to get people together to improve things in Scotland. Obviously I was hoping for better than [the 8,700 votes]. I didn't expect to get anybody in but I believe we can build from here.

"If I only get 8,000 votes in the next election, then I might call it quits."

Mr Stirling said the bulk of the money had come from other backers, but he had invested in Scottish Voice himself.

He said: "As a former theatre producer, I never ask anybody to invest in anything I am not willing to invest in myself, but the bulk of it came from others."

The Scottish Green Party, spent 108,162 but saw only two candidates elected, in contrast to the 2003 election when it spent 63,864 and won seven seats.

The Greens were one of four organisations each fined 500 by the commission for late returns.

The figures also revealed that Tommy Sheridan's Solidarity Party outspent his former Scottish Socialist Party by a margin of more than two to one - Solidarity spent 47,630 to the SSP's 19,994. But neither held or won any Holyrood seats.

The details were contained in returns published yesterday by The Electoral Commission for parties which spent less than 250,000 in the campaign for the Holyrood election.

Parties which spent more than 250,000 have to submit audited returns by 2 November.


ALL political parties have to abide by a cap of 1.5 million each for Scottish elections and they have to send their election expenses in to the Electoral Commission for verification.

The commission - Britain's elections watchdog - then publishes the figures to show no party has spent more than the cap.

The figures published yesterday were purely campaign expenses and did not include the deposits each candidate and party has to put up to stand for election - 500 for each constituency candidate and 500 for each regional party list.

Having lost deposits all over the country, Scottish Voice's actual debts will be slightly higher than the 184,920 recorded yesterday.

While the 21.06 per vote spent by Archie Stirling's party in this year's election is a lot, one other political party spent even more, for an even worse return, in 2003. The Scottish People's Alliance, bankrolled by industrialist Bob Durward, spent 24.47 per vote.

The SPA's result is still thought to be the record for a British political party for money spent per vote cast. The SPA spent 188,889 on the 2003 election and attracted only 7,718 votes across the whole country.

Both parties were set up by individuals who wanted to break the political status quo and both found it difficult, despite a lot of publicity.

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