Lib Dems ‘struggled to raise funds’ as poll spending is revealed

SCOTLAND’S smaller parties spent nearly £400,000 on campaigning in this year’s Holyrood elections, newly released figures have revealed.

The campaign finance details were published yesterday of 18 parties including the Scottish Lib Dems, who were the biggest spenders on the list of those contesting the elections with a £176,300 figure.

However, the Electoral Commission list excluded Scottish Labour, the SNP and the Tories who all spent over £250,000 and therefore have until the end of the year to reveal their level of campaign expenditure.

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The Scottish Lib Dems spent just over £40,000 more than the Greens, whose campaign bill was £132,464, leading one leading political expert to claim that Nick Clegg’s party was “struggling to raise funds” north of the Border due to the unpopularity of the UK coalition government.

Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University’s politics department said that the Lib Dems’ lowest expenditure since devolution revealed more about their unpopularity than it did about the Greens, who had two members returned to Holyrood. The Lib Dems saw their tally of MSPs plummet from 16 to just five.

Professor Curtice said: “The Greens almost managed to spend as much as the Lib Dems, which says more about the Lib Dems than it does about the Greens.

“It indicates that the Lib Dems were struggling to raise funds in Scotland due to the party’s involvement in the UK coalition government.”

Meanwhile, the £395,608 campaign costs run up by the 18 parties included expenditure on advertising, press conferences and party political broadcasts.

Next biggest spender was the Euro-sceptic UKIP, but it won no seats despite shelling out £30,319 on campaigning north of the Border.

The only other party spending a five-figure sum was the All Scotland Pensioners Party, which ran up costs of £12,034 and also failed to return any MSPs.

George Galloway’s Respect Party spent £8,196, however, the former Labour MP failed in his bid to win election as a Glasgow list MSP.

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The far right British National Party, which also failed to secure any seats in the Scottish Parliament, spent £9,779 on its failed campaign.

Parties at the bottom of the list for expenditure included the Communist Party of Britain, which spent no money in the run-up to polling day, while the Land Party’s campaign costs were just £50.

Professor Curtice said: “The very small amounts of money spent by these parties are what you would expect with a lower share of the vote.”

The Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) which famously won six MSPs as recently as 2003, spent just £8,795. Former SSP MSP Colin Fox said that the ability of the bigger parties to outspend their smaller opponents, despite a cap of just over £1.5 million, meant there was an “uneven contest” at Holyrood elections.

He said: “There is a correlation between votes won at elections and spending by parties, which means there is an uneven election contest.

Andy O’Neill, head of the Electoral Commission’s Scotland office, confirmed that Tommy Sheridan’s Solidarity, the far right National Front and the Scottish Homeland Party had failed to submit details of their campaign spending for the list.

He said: “The information we have released is an important part of ensuring full transparency in the democratic process in Scotland. We’ve published the first set of information, and will publish details of those spending over £250k in December.”