Capital candidates' £237k outlay for election battles

CANDIDATES in Edinburgh spent almost a quarter of a million pounds in the run-up to the Holyrood elections as they battled to win seats in the Scottish Parliament.

Detailed election expenses for all those who stood in the Capital's six constituencies show Labour spent the most money - a total of more than 72,000 - although it got only one MSP elected.

The Liberal Democrats, who lost both the seats they previously held, spent almost 69,000.

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The SNP, which won five of the six constituencies, spent just over 48,700, only marginally more than the Tories, who spent just over 47,000 and lost their one seat in the city.

There are strict limits on how much candidates can spend both in the "short" campaign - the six weeks before polling day - and the "long" campaign, which ran from January 6 until March 22. The figure is calculated according to the number of voters in each constituency.

The biggest spender was Edinburgh Central Liberal Democrat candidate Alex Cole-Hamilton, who came third despite projections suggesting he could win the seat.

He spent 19,153 on his "long" campaign, just over 200 short of the legal maximum. Most of the money went on printing and distribution of leaflets, postage and surveys.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said the high level of spending reflected the determination of Lib Dem activists to try to win a seat in what was always going to be a bleak election for the party.

He said: "We threw everything at Central and we engaged with voters at a level we have never done before. It's a shame it didn't pay off."

But he claimed the party had secured as much as 45 per cent of the vote in some parts of Murrayfield, which it had targeted. He said: "Our vote in Central dropped less than anywhere else in the city. Clearly the hard work we were doing stemmed the tide up to a point, but obviously not enough."

Edinburgh's two former Lib Dem MSPs - Mike Pringle in Edinburgh Southern and Margaret Smith in Edinburgh Western - spent close to the limit in the six-week "short" campaign in an unsuccessful attempt to hold on to their seats.

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The SNP's success in Edinburgh came in spite of relatively low campaign spending.

In two seats - Edinburgh Southern and Edinburgh Western - the party spent less overall than any other party.

In another two - Edinburgh Central and Edinburgh Pentlands - it was third out of four in total spending.

Edinburgh Pentlands SNP MSP Gordon MacDonald was the successful candidate with the lowest total spend - just 780 in the ten-week pre- campaign period and 3470 during the six-week campaign.Mr MacDonald, a qualified accountant, said: "It must be down to the fact I was the party's fundraiser for so many years - I know how hard-earned the cash is."

Ewan Aitken, defeated Labour candidate in Edinburgh Eastern, put the SNP's success down to its national campaign.

He said: "Labour ran good local campaigns and had lots of support, but nationally the SNP had more money and spent it well."