SNP has spent a third of dedicated Scottish independence fighting fund, accounts show

The SNP has spent more than a third of a dedicated independence fighting fund, it has emerged, despite no certainty over whether a vote will take place.

Financial accounts show a total of £740,822 had been raised through “independence-related appeals” by the end of 2021.

However, £253,335 of this has been spent.

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The SNP said it had carried out “extensive public attitude research” as well as producing a range of campaign materials, including one million copies of an eight-page pro-independence newspaper.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants to hold a second referendum next year, but the UK Government has refused to agree to this.

A Supreme Court battle is due to take place in October over whether Holyrood has the power to legislate for another vote on its own.

The SNP’s accounts, signed off by party treasurer Colin Beattie, show the party’s overall number of members fell over the course of last year, from 105,393 at the end of 2020 to 103,884 by December 31, 2021.

It had more than 125,000 members at the end of 2019, meaning there has been a substantial drop since the pandemic.

However, it is still the third largest political party in the UK after Labour and the Conservatives.

The accounts say “public concern about the economy and job security has impacted on membership income in the first half of 2022, with the soaring costs of living being given as the reason for cancelling or lowering their membership payments”.

Elsewhere, documents show the SNP spent £5.3 million, but brought in an income of £4.5m – a deficit of around £750,000.

Last year, Police Scotland launched a probe into the SNP’s finances after receiving complaints about how money raised by the party for independence campaigning had been spent. The investigation has yet to conclude.

Ms Sturgeon previously said she was "not concerned about the party's finances" and there was “full scrutiny”.

A section of the party’s accounts headed “referendum appeal” reads: “By 31 December 2021, a total of £740,822 had been raised through the independence-related appeals.

"These donations are also included in – and have been reconciled with – the total amount for donations included in party accounts from 2017 to 2021.

"Up until 31 December 2021 a total of £253,335 of expenditure had been applied against this income. The balance remains ‘earmarked’ for independence-related campaigning.

“Of course, the SNP is the party of independence and, as such, every action we take – directly or indirectly – is in support of winning independence.

"However, we continue to take a very strict approach to ensuring that this income supports expenditure directly related to the campaign for independence.

"We will ensure that an amount equivalent to the sums raised from these appeals will go directly to our work to secure a referendum and win independence.”

An SNP spokesman said: “The countdown to the referendum on October 19, 2023 has well and truly started.

"Our campaigning for independence is ongoing. We obviously must prepare for a referendum to win a referendum.

"Those preparations last year included extensive public attitude research and the production of a range of campaign materials, including one million copies of an eight-page pro-independence newspaper.”

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