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Scottish independence: Pro-Union donors revealed

Better Together campaign director Blair McDougall. Picture: Robert Perry

Better Together campaign director Blair McDougall. Picture: Robert Perry

  • by ANDREW WHITAKER
 

THE anti-independence campaign has received £1.6 million in donations, with a Premier League football club chairman and former soldiers with links to British intelligence among those contributing.

Since April, a total of £1,308,000 has been handed to the Better Together campaign from 19 major donors – those giving £10,000 or more each.

The pro-independence Yes Scotland campaign, which previously received £1m from the SNP-supporting lottery winners Colin and Christine Weir, said it was not ready to publish details of its latest financial backers.

Arsenal chairman Sir Chippendale Keswick gave Better Together, which is led by former chancellor Alistair Darling, £23,000. There was also a £10,000 donation from Sir Keith Craig, an army veteran who works for intelligence-gathering firm Hakluyt. Christopher Wilkins, chairman of North British Wind Energy Ltd, also gave £10,000. He is a former Welsh Guards officer who in 1995 helped found Hakluyt.

The biggest cash gift was £600,000 from hotel and distillery tycoon Donald Houston, owner of the Ardnamurchan Estate. The businessman handed over £500,000 through two companies, Rain Dance International and Beinn Bhuidhe, as well as giving £100,000 in his own name to Better Together.

Mr Houston, owner of the Glenborrodale Castle Hotel and the Adelphi distillery, said that “ripping up” the Union “to

satisfy the SNP is a ridiculous idea”.

Stockbroker Andrew Fraser – who has also given more than £1m to the Conservative Party since 2004 – was the second biggest Better Together donor at £200,000.

Historical fiction writer Christopher Sansom, who attacked the SNP in his novel Dominion, gave £133,000. He had previously given £161,000 to the campaign.

Alan Savage, chairman of the international recruitment group Orion, added £150,000 to an earlier donation of £100,000.

The businessman said: “My support for the Better Together campaign is stronger than ever following the publication of a white paper that does nothing to convince me that independence would be a force for good for Scotland, Scottish people, the Scottish business community and the rest of our friends in the UK.”

Better Together also received £123,197 from 56 mid-tier donors who gave between £500 and £7500, and £218,446 from 17,378 small donors since April.

The campaign previously declared donations of £1.1m in April. The campaign’s war chest now stands at £2.7m.

Blair McDougall, Better Together director, said the No side was likely be outspent by Yes Scotland before the rules restricting campaign spending to £1.5m come into force during the 16 week run-up to the referendum on 18 September.

He said: “We know the money that we have managed to raise ourselves is dwarfed by the almost limitless funds available to the Nationalists.”

SNP MP Angus Robertson, the party’s leader at Westminster, claimed Better Together was being bankrolled by Conservative financial backers.

He said: “This list of donors to the No campaign is further proof that the anti-independence campaign is Tory to the core. It is led by a Tory prime minister and bankrolled by leading Tory party donors.”

Yes Scotland revealed it had raised £1.7m in April, when the donations included £1m

from the Weirs, who collected a record £161m jackpot in July 2011.

A statement from Yes Scotland yesterday said: “We will be publishing an up-to-date list of donors in the new year.”

A spokesman for the campaign added: “It continues to be our policy to accept significant donations only from people who are entitled to vote in the referendum.”

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