Scottish Labour struggled to match SNP's £2.1m war chest, figures show

THE SNP's financial lead over Labour in Scotland has been reaffirmed by new figures.

The figures reveal how party chiefs were able to pour thousands of pounds before the turn of the year on this May's election campaign, and showed that the SNP spent 2.1 million in 2010 - nearly double the sum from five years before.

Accounts show the party spent 600,000 on campaigning, half of which went on early work for the 2011 election. The bulk of this, some 250,000, was spent in the second half of last year on a communications strategy which set the course for its successful election campaign.

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By contrast, Scottish Labour spent 600,000 in total in 2010, 1.5m less than the SNP, only a half of which was spent on campaigning - mostly on the general election. While the figures are not directly comparable with the SNP, as much of Labour's spending is accounted for on a UK level, party chiefs conceded last night they had been clearly outspent by their Nationalist rivals on the Holyrood trail.

That lead is expected to be extended further when figures on the 2011 Holyrood campaign itself are released later this year. The SNP's campaign was boosted earlier this year by several donations, including a 500,000 sum from Stagecoach founder Sir Brian Souter.

The figures released yesterday also revealed the UK picture, and showed that the Conservatives outspent Labour during 2010, when spending for the general election, by 49m to 34m.

Ironically, given David Cameron's campaign call to cut Britain's deficit, figures also showed that the election effort ensured that his party itself went into the red, running up a 6m deficit on the year.

The SNP also ended the year with a deficit, caused by the upsurge in early campaigning spend for the Holyrood election. However, the fruits of that extra cash paid dividends in May when the party won a landslide victory over Labour, securing its quest to hold a referendum on independence.

Party chiefs said last night they had spent big early on the 2011 campaign, on advertising, polling and policy development, buoyed by increased income from membership which ran at 408,000 in 2010, compared to just 195,000 in 2005. Party membership has risen from 8,500 when Alex Salmond took over as leader to more than 18,000 today.

Peter Murrell, the party's chief executive said: "It was because of having stronger membership and fundraising income that allowed us to invest early. That is a transformation from six or seven years ago. That funding from last year was then supplemented later by several strong donations that we received from several individuals."

Mr Murrell said he expected the 2011 accounts to show the SNP would be in profit, with membership having risen further since the turn of the year, and with fresh donations having come in to supplement the party's coffers still further.

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That includes a 1m sum left to the SNP in the will of the poet Edwin Morgan, who died earlier this year.

In 2010, significant donations included 50,000 from businessman Angus Tulloch, 16,000 from Gilbert Wilson, and 15,000 from firm Hydracat Ltd. Total spending by Scottish Labour is less clear, as much of the income and expenditure of the party north of the Border is accounted for at a UK level.

However, the figures that do exist for the party in Scotland show it has lost substantial ground to the SNP over the last decade, from raising and spending similar sums to now having a cash-flow less than half that of sums handled by the Nationalists.

The figures also reveal that while the SNP registered an income of 243,946 for its party conference, Scottish Labour's income was 119,299.