Hey, big spenders – SNP puts rivals in shade
THE SNP massively outspent its Scottish rivals last year and still managed to set aside £1.5 million for its war chest.
Alex Salmond’s party received more than £5m in income during 2011, including £1m from Scottish lottery winners Colin and Christine Weir, a similar amount in a bequest from the late Makar Edwin Morgan and a six-figure sum from bus company tycoon Sir Brian Souter.
The SNP spent almost £3.5m in 2011 – the year of its landslide election victory – while its closest rival, Labour, spent just £781,569, more than the £735,774 it received in income.
The latest figures show the SNP was the fourth wealthiest party in Britain last year, with an income just over £1m less than the £6.2m in the coffers of the Liberal Democrats at UK level.
SNP business convener Derek Mackay said the Electoral Commission figures showed the party had enjoyed a “remarkable year” in 2011.
“Thanks to the donation from Colin and Chris Weir and the legacy from Edwin Morgan, the party’s finances have never been healthier,” he said.
The Scottish Lib Dems received £533,782 in 2011 and spent nearly £500,000.
More than £23m went to the UK Conservatives – £22.8m of which was spent by the party, according to the figures published by the commission.
The party’s income almost halved last year, dropping by nearly £20m from the figure of £43.1m in the general election year of 2010.
There was no sum published for the Conservatives in Scotland, with all the party’s money raised north of the Border grouped in with the UK figures.
The Labour Party at UK level spent more than £30m of the £31m it received in 2011 – the biggest income and expenditure figures of all parties.
Nearly half of the £3.5m spent by the SNP last year was used to campaign in constituencies, with about a fifth of the cash paying for staff at the Nationalists’ HQ in Edinburgh. The SNP had about £1.5m left over from the money raised during 2011 – a large chunk of which is thought to have been used to help bankroll the launch of the Yes campaign ahead of the independence referendum.
The party has said the cash from Ayrshire lottery winners Mr and Mrs Weir would be set aside for the campaign in the lengthy run-up to the referendum, which is expected to be held in 2014.
Opposition MSPs last night claimed wealthy Nationalists were using their financial muscle to attempt influence the outcome of the referendum, despite what they claimed were low levels of support for independence.
Labour MSP Richard Baker, a director of the anti-independence Better Together campaign, said: “There’s no doubt that Alex Salmond has been keenly wooing big business as well as very powerful and rich individuals.
“It’s perhaps not surprising then that this has paid off for the SNP.
“Of course every party wants a good level of donations, but there is a concern here about how healthy it is for democracy that the SNP is getting so close to rich and powerful people.”
Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone put forward a similar argument. He said: “It should be noted that the SNP has a clear agenda and it is one that reflects the opinion of a small minority of Scottish voters.
“If a small number of wealthy individuals were trying to achieve Scottish independence against the will of the majority of the population in Scotland, then these people need to very carefully consider the position they are taking.”
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