Scottish independence: Call to publish donations

Margo MacDonald insisted that Scots need to know 'who's paying what for the referendum'. Picture: PA
Margo MacDonald insisted that Scots need to know 'who's paying what for the referendum'. Picture: PA
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BOTH referendum campaigns should publish all significant donations instantly to avoid a damaging row over political finance, a senior MSP has claimed.

The call from Independent MSP Margo MacDonald came as both Better Together and Yes Scotland were reported to have refused to set a timetable for when their donations will next be declared.

Ms MacDonald insisted that Scots need to know “who’s paying what for the referendum” with every donation of £5,000 or more made public immediately.

Better Together and Yes Scotland both published a list of donations this spring, although the two sides have failed to agree when more details about their campaign finances will be released.

In April, Yes Scotland revealed it had received £1.7m, with its biggest donors being lottery winners Colin and Chris Weir, while Better Together raised £1.1m, with its largest donation a £500,000 gift from oil trader Ian Taylor.

Ms MacDonald called for greater transparency with a rolling system of donations being declared in the run-up to the referendum on 18 September, 2014.

The Lothians MSP, who is a supporter of the Yes campaign, claimed the move was needed so that voters could be informed about any “unexpected source of finance”.

Ms MacDonald said: “It’s simple. Any money over a certain amount should be declared. It’s the easiest way so that the public knows who’s paying what for the referendum.

“What’s the difficulty with declaring what donations have been made? Let people know who’s paying what and to whom they are paying it.”

Yes Scotland said it was “prepared to discuss” Ms MacDonald’s call for shake-up of how campaign finance is made public.

Better Together insisted there was no row over making public the campaign spending, even though no agreement has been reached to publish donations

The first year’s donations of both campaigns were made public within a few days of each other this year, with Better Together revealing its financial backers first.

A spokesman for Yes Scotland said: “This suggestion is certainly one that we would be prepared to discuss. Yes Scotland is committed to publishing details of donations and has already done so for the period from our launch in May of last year till the end of March 2013.”

A spokesman for Better Together said: “As far as we are concerned, there isn’t a row about political finance. Both campaigns have agreed, voluntarily, to release details of their donors in the run up to the regulated period.”

Neither Better Together or Yes Scotland are required to publish financial details until they are regulated by the electoral commission, which happens 16 weeks before the referendum.