SNP spent £615,000 on office refit, annual accounts confirm

The SNP paid £615,000 on an office refurbishment, the party’s annual accounts have confirmed, amid concerns about how £600,000 of donations “ringfenced” for an independence campaign was spent.

Published on Thursday by the Electoral Commission, the party’s accounts state the SNP ran a surplus of £1.09 million in 2020, leaving the party with reserves of £1.362m in its accounts.

The party received more than £2.4m in membership fees, and a further £416,000 in donations and raised £506,000 through fundraising activities.

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SNP coalition partners Scottish Greens fail to submit party accounts on time
The SNP's annual accounts for 2020 have been published.

However, other than a statement from treasurer Colin Beattie repeating the claim the controversial £600,000 raised for independence campaigning has been “earmarked” and “amounts equivalent” would be spent by the party, the fund is not clearly identifiable in the SNP’s accounts.

Speaking after the publication of the accounts, Mr Beattie said: "Despite all the challenges presented by the pandemic, SNP income hit a record high for a non-election year, and we reported a healthy surplus of £1.1m.

"In fact, the SNP were the only major party not to make a loss in 2020. The party is in great shape as we prepare to secure independence after the Covid crisis has passed.”

The figures mean 2020 was only the third year since party finances were required to be published by the Electoral Commission that the SNP made a surplus of over £1m.

The last two years this happened was in 2018 and 2011, with a £700k surplus in 2017.

The party’s single biggest expense last year was staff costs at £1.259m.

A total of just over £1m was spent on staff salaries for the 25 employees, an increase of £142,000 when compared to 2019.

The party’s chief executive Peter Murrell, who is also Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, is said to have received £79,750 as his annual salary.

It is the first time since 2012 his salary has appeared in the accounts.

In that year, the party stated one member of staff was paid more than £50,000, with their exact salary recorded as £77,024.

In 2011, the year Alex Salmond led the SNP to a majority in Holyrood, he was paid £109,492.

Just one member of staff is dedicated to policy development, the accounts state, with six working on the corporate side, and four staff members each in finance, digital and campaigns sections of the party’s work.

Three employees also work in events and three more in communications.

The party states that it holds £260,565 in ‘cash or cash equivalents’, an increase from the 2019 figure of £96,854.

The SNP has come under fierce pressure to explain the whereabouts of the £600,000 raised through a crowdfunder, and Police Scotland are continuing to investigate several allegations of financial irregularities against the party.

Figures in the accounts confirm, however, that £615,270 of “tangible assets” were purchased in 2020, with £385,520 spent on additional furniture, fixtures and fittings, and £229,750 on office and computer equipment.

Due to the lack of a physical conference, the SNP also saved more than £650,000 in expenses associated with conference compared to 2019.

It also spent £77,780 on “legal fees” – about half the total in 2019 of £156,483.

Campaigning costs were also much lower than in 2019, with just £193,880 spent on campaigning, down from more than £1.5m in 2019, the same year as the last general election.

The party also records more than £1.1m in ‘prepayments and accrued income’ in its accounts.

Accrued income is income that has been earned, but not yet received, while prepayments cover payments made for goods or services which have not been received.

The accounts also state that its branch dividend – where 25 per cent of the membership fee is paid to the branch in which a member lives – was suspended for three months from April 1 to “help meet the party’s financial obligations”.

However, the party adds that membership payments increased by 8 per cent in 2020, with 105,393 members at the end of last year.

By the end of May, the number of members had grown to more than 119,000.

The party’s statement also states that it is in a “good financial position” to manage the impact of the pandemic.

It states: “Like every organisation today, we face challenges and uncertainty in the face of this current pandemic. Our members and donors will not be immune to the prolonged period of uncertainty ahead.

"While the evolving nature of the situation means it is not possible to accurately quantify the financial impact this may have, the party is in a good financial position to help manage this risk.”

National figures for the Conservatives showed the SNP made more from membership fees than Boris Johnson’s party.

The Conservatives received more than £17m in donations in 2020, but ran a deficit of £5.5m for the year, leaving the party with revenue reserves of £1.1m.

It spent more than £10m on salaries for its 304 staff, down from £12m in 2020 partly due to employing 38 fewer staff.

In total, it spent £29m and received £24m during 2020.

The Labour party also ran a deficit of £1m in 2020 after spending more than £42.5m, and received £5.6m in donations and £19.3m in membership fees.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats also ran a deficit of around £60,000, with income of £498,000 and expenditure of £557,000.

The Scottish Greens, new partners in government with the SNP, failed to submit their accounts on time.

However, the party later said it had submitted its accounts with a full clean audit.

No party set out “restricted” and “unrestricted” funds in their accounts.

Louise Edwards, director of regulation at the Electoral Commission, said: “All registered political parties must keep financial records and submit annual statements of accounts to us. Publishing this data helps voters see political parties’ income and what they’re spending.

"This is an important part of delivering transparency in political finance in the UK, and in enhancing public confidence and trust in our democratic processes.”

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