Independence: Lottery winners donate £1m to ‘Yes’

The Yes campaign has received donations from the Weirs and the SNP, amongst others. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The Yes campaign has received donations from the Weirs and the SNP, amongst others. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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THE SCOTTISH couple who won £161 million on the Euromillions lottery have handed £1 million to the pro-independence campaign on top of a donation for the same amount already paid to the SNP.

SNP supporters Christine and Colin Weir, who claimed the prize in 2011, have each given £500,000 to Yes Scotland – the biggest donations to the campaign since its launch a year ago.

The donation from the Ayrshire couple made up the bulk of Yes Scotland’s war chest of £1,625,797, which was revealed yesterday in newly published campaign accounts.

However, the SNP has not transfered another £1m donation made by the couple in 2011 to the Yes campaign, alongside a £918,000 bequest from Scotland’s late former Makar Edwin Morgan.

Both the SNP and Yes Scotland refused to discuss the total sum of almost £2m kept by Alex Salmond’s party and would not say whether it planned to hand over the cash to the cross-party pro-independence group or keep it to use for their own campaign.

But it emerged that the SNP had funded Yes Scotland’s start-up and staffing costs of £342,797, including the campaign’s high-profile launch last year.

The publication of Yes Scotland’s finance comes days after it was revealed that the anti-independence Better Together campaign has amassed donations totalling £1,118,451.

Better Together published details of about £1m in pledges on top of its cash donations. Yes Scotland’s campaign details did not list any pledges.

Yes Scotland was handed a £250,00 donation from Edinburgh fund manager Angus Tulloch, who made the largest contribution to the campaign after the Weirs and the SNP.

There was £25,000 from Elgin-based construction magnate Alexander Adam and £8,000 from William Wilson, a pharmacist in Glasgow.

More than 7,000 small donors also contributed about £112,000 to Yes Scotland’s coffers, the campaign’s figures showed.

However, opponents accused Yes Scotland of relying on SNP donors for the bulk of its campaign finance.

Blair McDougall, Better Together campaign director said: “Yes Scotland claim a broad base of support, but these figures make it clear that the overwhelming majority of their funds have come from the SNP and SNP donors.

“They have been completely unable to move beyond the traditional and core support of the SNP.

“It is our campaign which has the greater grassroots support.

“These figures show that despite their ludicrous claims to be a broad church, Yes Scotland and the SNP are one in the same. The campaign for separation is being bankrolled by the nationalists.”

The finance of the Better Together campaign, which is being led by former chancellor Alistair Darling, included more than £500,000 from oil trader Ian Taylor and £161,000 from crime writer CJ Sansom.

Neither campaign is legally required to disclose information on funding outside of the regulated period of campaigning, which begins 16 weeks prior to the referendum on 18 September in 2014.

Blair Jenkins, chief executive of Yes Scotland, said that the campaign had opted to

publish details of its finances

to be “transparent about funding”.

He said: “Thousands of people in Scotland have donated to the Yes Scotland cause and have given what they can according to their financial means. We are deeply appreciative to each and every one of them.

“Although we will not be in the regulated period of the campaign until 16 weeks before the referendum, I said when I took up my appointment that we intended to be transparent about funding and that is why we are publishing this information today.

“The information given today also reflects the fact that Yes Scotland is a self-financing campaign and that we are being funded by Scotland for Scotland.

“That, in our view, is how it should be and why, unlike our opponents, we are not prepared to accept large donations from people outside Scotland.”

The SNP refused repeated requests to say whether it would eventually transfer the £1m from the Weirs and the late Makar’s bequest of a similar sum.