THE Scottish Nationalists were the third richest political party in the United Kingdom in terms of donations made over the summer, new figures reveal.
The SNP overtook the Liberal Democrats for the first time when it came to UK-wide donations, thanks to the largesse of Scotland’s Euromillions lottery winners, Colin and Christine Weir, and the legacy left by the late poet Edwin Morgan.
Figures released by the Electoral Commission yesterday showed the SNP received £1,988,657 between July and September this year. The size of the gifts, which will go into the SNP’s referendum war chest, was comparable to the donations received by the two largest London-based parties.
Labour led the way, outstripping the Conservatives by 30 per cent. Almost 90 per cent of the Labour total of £3,138,443 came from the unions. The Tories recorded £2,744,618 and their coalition partners the Lib Dems came in fourth place behind the SNP with £526,346.
The £917,739 left to the SNP by Mr Morgan, the late Scottish Makar or national poet, was the second highest donation after the £1,493,317 given to Labour by Unite the Union.
Mr and Mrs Weir gave £500,000 each, making the third quarter of this year an exceptionally lucrative spell for the SNP. Both donations were included in the period up to September, although neither was made public immediately; confirmation of the Weirs’ gifts came this week.
“The SNP is very grateful for the bequest left to us by Edwin Morgan and the generosity of Chris and Colin Weir, along with all those donors who have given their support to the party,” an SNP spokesman said. “Following May’s election we are now in the strongest financial health the party has experienced providing us with an excellent platform for May’s local elections and the independence referendum to come .”
The Commission’s figures showed that taxpayers underwrote political parties to the tune of less than £2.1 million in the quarter.
Despite the huge donation from Unite, one of £731,299 from Unison and both the GMB and the Union of Shop Distributive and Allied Workers Union contributing more than £300,000 each, Labour said its biggest single source of income was membership subscriptions and small donations below the threshold requiring declaration to the commission.
The three main parties also came under fire from the watchdog for late reporting of some of their donations. The Tories and Lib Dems were also censured over loans reporting. Outstanding loans now totalled almost £15m, the commission said.
The sources of party funding led to heated exchanges, with the Tories criticising Labour’s reliance on the unions.
Conservative Party co-chairman Baroness Warsi accused Labour leader Ed Miliband of failing to condemn planned mass strikes because of the funding.
“The unions swung Ed Miliband’s election as leader and it’s now clear Labour is becoming even more reliant on the unions to keep the party afloat,” she said. “He should stop being weak and condemn the strikes, but his reliance on the biggest vested interest in British politics today shows clearly why he won’t.”
Labour hit back by compiling figures showing 42.6 per cent of Tory donations – just over £1m – came from individuals and companies related to the financial and financial services sector.
Among notable names on the donor list was former England footballer Francis Lee, who made a fortune with a paper recycling business after hanging up his boots. He gave £5,750 to the local Conservative party in Tatton, the seat held by Chancellor George Osborne.