Who are the donors behind Yes and No campaigns?

Stagecoach chief Brian Souter, one of Yes Scotland's biggest donors. Picture: Getty
Stagecoach chief Brian Souter, one of Yes Scotland's biggest donors. Picture: Getty
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WHO are the patriots, altruists, artists, financiers and blue bloods with the money backing the campaigns for and against Scottish independence, asks Tom Peterkin

WITH around two months to go until the independence referendum, the battle for Scotland is intensifying. There are few areas where is this is more pronounced than in the scramble for cash by the Yes and No campaigns.

JK Rowling: Donated one million to Better Together. Picture: PA

JK Rowling: Donated one million to Better Together. Picture: PA

Last week, the Electoral Commission published details of those who have given more than £7,500 to the campaigns since December last year.

Using the Electoral Commission data, Scotland on Sunday has compiled a survey of the top 12 donors on both sides of the debate and the results make compelling and contrasting reading.

The Yes side has continued to benefit from the deep pockets of the lottery winners Colin and Chris Weir, and Sir Brian Soutar. When donations to Yes Scotland, Business for Scotland and Christians for Independence are added over the last six months, the total comes to £1,459,120.

In addition to the well-known Yes donors, the list includes American-born Walt Hopkins, a life coach based in Kinross who came to Scotland having heard tales of his homeland from his Scottish Presbyterian parents, and Randall Foggie, an Englishman from Cambridge who has retired to Kirkcaldy and now supports the SNP.

Impressive as the Yes side’s fundraising drive has been, it has been comprehensively outshone by its No rivals over the last six months. While the contributions to Yes have been down to around 12 individuals or organisations, the No campaign has received more than 30 donations from individuals, trusts and organisations – totalling £2,506,475.

While the money will be welcomed, the list of controversial Tory donors, landowners, old money and the most blue-blooded of aristocrats will not sit easily with left-wing supporters of the UK. When money is counted since campaigning began, the No side now reckons it has raised £6.9 million while Yes’s total is understood to be £2m less.

Yes (Yes Scotland and Business for Scotland)

£500,000 each

1= Colin Weir

Chris Weir

Colin and Chris Weir’s £161 million Euromillions lottery win has not just transformed the lives of the Ayrshire couple, it has also proved to be a bonanza for the Yes campaign.

The £1m donated between them to Yes Scotland sealed the couple’s place among the most generous donors in British political history.

In addition to their two donations of £500,000 recorded last week, they have previously given another £3.5m to Yes Scotland and £1m to the SNP. They have been long-term supporters of Scottish independence, Colin Weir, formerly an STV cameraman, knew Alex Salmond when the pair worked on SNP party political broadcasts in the 1980s. Salmond invited the couple to his official Bute House residence for tea – a few days before they made their first donation. The gathering led to an investigation to see if the First Minister had breached the ministerial code for not including the Weirs on his official register of guests. Salmond was cleared. In a rare public pronouncement, the Weirs expressed dismay at the online abuse they and others have suffered.


4= Dan MacDonald

The chief executive of the Edinburgh-based MacDonald Estates is another loyal supporter of independence. MacDonald’s £50,000 to Yes Scotland comes on top of regular donations to the SNP.

Sutherland-born and educated MacDonald set up the Scottish Property Federation. He was on the board of the influential political think-tank Reform Scotland, but left because of differences on the constitutional question.


3 Sir Brian Souter

The self-made Stagecoach entrepreneur is one of Scotland’s most successful business figures and a life-long supporter of the SNP. With his sister Ann Gloag, he is estimated to share a £1 billion fortune. His £200,000 donation consisted of £100,000 to Business for Scotland and £100,000 to its sister organisation, Christians for Independence.

An evangelical Christian, Souter’s religious beliefs contributed to his decision in 2000 to give £1m to the campaign to uphold the ban on “promoting” homosexuality in schools.


4= Randall Foggie

An Englishman from Cambridge and now retired and living in Kirkcaldy, Foggie, 73, has given £50,000 to Yes Scotland. Aged 14, he had the “misfortune” to hear a Tory MP describe a meeting of concerned voters as “peasants”.

“Coming up here and finding the SNP was anti-Westminster, it made absolute sense to join the SNP. The SNP is not anti-English, otherwise I wouldn’t be in it. It is anti-Westminster – fantastic,” he told Scotland on Sunday.


4= Mark Shaw

An Aberdeen-based property developer, Shaw donated £50,000 to Yes Scotland. Last year it was reported that he had taken on a part-time consultancy role with the Yes Scotland team. Shaw is the chief executive of the Edinburgh-based Hazledene group, which has built major developments in Aberdeen. In recent years, the group has bought over the Olympic ski resort Pragelato in the Italian Alps. Shaw is also the owner of the Park Inn Radisson in Aberdeen.


7 Willie Wilson

Dr Willie Wilson’s donation was made to Business for Scotland. He is a former lecturer and researcher at Glasgow University. Retired from academia, he still runs a small chain of community pharmacies – Thistle Pharmacies – which he founded in 1975. He is a leading light in the campaign group NHS for Yes – an organisation arguing that only independence can protect the health service in Scotland against Westminster cuts.


8= Tony Banks

A former member of the Parachute Regiment who served during the Falklands War, Banks gave £15,000 to Business for Scotland – an organisation he chairs. Today the Dundonian is head of Balhousie Care Group, Scotland’s largest independently owned care home provider.

Banks believes that Scotland has a strong financial base on which to prosper as an independent nation. He believes progress is constrained by the Westminster “strait-jacket” and believes independence would be a catalyst for structural reform across the UK.


12 Walt Hopkins

Walt Hopkins is a Kinross based life coach and consultant who has donated to Yes Scotland. According to the website of his company Castle Consulting, US-born Hopkins is looking forward to “becoming a Scottish citizen” after 2014.

His website says: “Walt Hopkins inspires people to take their dreams seriously. Walt’s book Influencing for Results in Organisations empowers people with the lifetime skills to act on their own answers to three questions: Who am I? What do I want? How do I get it?”


10 Graeme McCormick

The donor to Business for Scotland established Conveyancing Direct, Solicitors in 1997 to provide a cost-effective and IT-driven house purchase and sale service.

It grew to become the largest dedicated domestic conveyancing service in Scotland, completing around 4,000 transactions each year. Around 80 per cent of its business comes direct from the public, the remainder through professional property introducers.

McCormick is a media commentator on housing and unpaid adviser to both public and private corporations.


11 Springfield Real Estate

The eleventh highest donation to the Yes side recorded by the Electoral Commission was in the form of a “non cash” gift given to Business for Scotland by Springfield Real Estate, the property company which has the Business for Scotland donor Sandy Adam as director. According to the Electoral Commission, the donation refers to the use of premises by Business for Scotland. Non-cash donations can come in the form of property, goods or services.


8= Sandy Adam

From a farming background, Sandy Adam operated as a property developer and investor until 1998 when he began house building under the Springfield banner. Under his leadership, the company has built more than 3,500 homes including 1,000 affordable homes. He is chairman of Springfield Properties and vice-chairman of Homes for Scotland. Adam, whose donation of £15,000 is to Business for Scotland, is the chairman of Yes Moray. He is also a board member of Business for Scotland.

No (Better Together and others)


1 JK Rowling

The £1 million donation to Better Together by the world’s most popular children’s author was seen as a coup for the No campaign. Her donation was accompanied by a blog which made the case for Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom in measured and persuasive terms.

It was perhaps not a huge surprise that the Harry Potter author should favour a No vote. She is a close friend of the former prime minister Gordon Brown and his wife, Sarah. She was also pictured with Alistair Darling attending an Eddie Izzard Please Don’t Go comedy gig in Edinburgh, where the Labour-supporting comedian argued for a No vote. Rowling’s declaration for the No campaign was accompanied by a welter of online abuse directed at the author.


2= C J Sansom

CJ Sansom’s best-selling book Dominion made little secret of where his political allegiance lies. In the book published two years before he gave £200,000 to Better Together, the acclaimed author described the SNP as “dangerous” and a “threat to all of Britain” in a historical note at the end.

Sansom, from Edinburgh, argued that beneath the “empty populist bonhomie of Alex Salmond, the prospective break-up of Britain is already creating a new culture of hostility and bitterness on both sides of the Border”.

His analysis was hotly disputed by the SNP minister Mike Russell, who said Sansom “clearly has never met a member of the modern SNP and has not bothered to read, still less understand, the party’s impeccable democratic and social democratic history”.


2= Rain Dance Investments Ltd

Donald Houston, the owner of the Ardnamurchan Estate, the Glenborrodale Castle Hotel and the Adelphi distillery, is the businessman behind Rain Dance Investments.

The £200,000 given to Better Together by the 53-year-old former engineer is the most recent in a series of donations to the No campaign. At the end of last year, he said ripping up the Union to satisfy the SNP was a “ridiculous idea”. He is one of several big landowners to declare their preference for a No vote.


4 William Grant & Sons Ltd

The renowned distiller William Grant & Sons gave £135,000 to Better Together, £25,000 to the No campaign group No Borders and a further £25,000 donated through an individual registered with the No campaign called Angus MacDonald.

The 127-year-old company, which last year had a turnover of more than £1 billion, is one of the few big distillers in family hands. Its brands include the Balvenie, Tullamore Dew, Hendrick’s Gin, Sailor Jerry rum and Grant’s.

The company has argued that the whisky industry gets “substantial” support through the UK government and its embassies.

It gave a clue to its thinking last month when its Girvan distillery played host to a pro-Union speech by Alistair Darling.


5= Earl of Seafield

It was a previous Earl of Seaforth, who in 1707 as lord chancellor of Scotland, signed the Treaty of Union and remarked: “Now there’s ane end of ane auld sang”.

Today his descendant, the thirteenth Earl of Seafield, Ian Derek Francis Ogilvie-Grant, is at the head of a family which is one of the largest landowners in Britain and holds 84,500 acres. In addition to the £100,000, the Reidhaven Trust Estate, a trust belonging to the family, has donated a further £20,000.


5= Flowidea Ltd

Is a funding vehicle used by the reclusive Swiss-born stockbroker Henry Angest, who has also donated money to the Tories and groups campaigning for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

Earlier this year, Angest was revealed as the man behind one of Britain’s biggest high-cost long-term lenders Everyday Loans.

In 2008, Flowidea donated £10,000 to Global Britain, a think tank run by Lord Pearson, the former leader of the UK Independence Party.


5= Andrew Fraser

Andrew Fraser, a stockbroker who is also a Tory donor, gave £100,000 to Better Together.

Since 2004, Fraser has given £1m to David Cameron’s party. He was head of equities at Barings’ Bank when it collapsed in 1995 after trader Nick Leeson racked up £800m of losses on the stock market. It emerged that three years earlier Fraser sent a memo expressing concern about Leeson’s power.


8 Balmoral Comtec Ltd

Balmoral Comtec is part of the Balmoral Group, which works in the oil and gas industry in Aberdeen and is run by north-east businessman Jimmy Milne. Milne has known Alex Salmond since the First Minister was an oil economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland. Milne, however, disagrees with Salmond’s politics. The septuagenarian forged a highly successful career after leaving school at the age of 14 and building up his Balmoral business from scratch.


9= Edward Percy Weatherall

Until 2006, Weatherall was managing director of Jardine Matheson Holdings, the successor firm of the Far Eastern trading company founded in 1832 with Scots William Jardine and James Matheson at the helm.

Originally trading in opium, cotton, tea and silk, the company was the largest of the foreign trading companies in the Far East by the end of the 19th century.


9= Ivor Dunbar

Ivor Dunbar is former head of global markets at Deutsche Bank and was part of the team advising Alistair Darling when the Better Together leader was dealing with the banking crisis as Labour chancellor in Gordon Brown’s government. Dunbar left Deutsche Bank at the end of April last year. In 16 years with the bank, he established himself as one of the so-called “big beasts” of the financial world.


9= Stalbury Trustees

Stalbury Trustees has contributed £50,000 to the No side through the campaigning group No Borders, the campaigning group set up by the Greenock-born financier Malcolm Offord.

According to recent papers lodged by Stalbury with Companies House, the directors include the 7th Earl of Verulam; Lord Charles Edward Vere Cecil; the Marquis of Salisbury Robert Michael James Cecil and the Most Honourable Robert Edward Peter, Marquess of Salisbury.


9= Orion Engineering

Chairman Alan Savage, an Englishman based in Scotland, is a critic of independence. Savage has threatened to move his Inverness-based business out of Scotland in the event of a Yes vote.

Recently he said that his company run from Scotland “with 1,500 workers across the UK and 3,500 globally, needs economic and political stability to keep it healthy and allow us to continue to invest in a world-class workforce”.

Other donors

13 Gerald Elliot (£40,000), former chairman of Christian Salveson; 14.Western United Investment Co (£40,000); 14 Bruno Schroder, banker (£30,000); 15 Buccleuch Estates (£25,000); 16 Sir David Garrard, Labour donor, (£25,000); 17 Alistair Jack, businessman who backed Murdo Fraser (£20,000); 18 Kevan Macdonald solicitor (£20,000); 19 Reidhaven Trust estate (£20,000) -linked to Earl of Seafield; 20 MacTaggart, Scott and Company Ltd (£15,000); 21 Charles MacLean (£10,500); 22 Hugh Campbell Adamson (£10,475); 23 Archattan Hydro (£10,000); 24 Ardverikie Estate (Monarch of Glen) (£10,000); 25 Broadland Properties (£10,000); 26 Glenglass Hydro (£10,000); 27 Gretna Green Ltd (£10,000); 28 Randall Nicol (£10,000); 29 Peak Scientific Holdings (£10,000); 30 Teasses Capital Ltd (£10,000); 31 Benalla Ltd (£10,000); 32 David Stevenson (£9,500); 33 MacDougal Arts Ltd (£8,000)