Identity of one of SNP’s biggest donors revealed

The identity of one of the biggest financial donors to the SNP in recent years can be revealed today as a former specialist teacher from Edinburgh who enjoyed hillwalking in the Borders.

Maureen Erasmuson, a committed party activist who never stood for election, bequeathed the nationalists £153,000 following her death in July 2017.

Friends remember her as a life-long supporter of Scottish independence who would go out of her way to help candidates standing for election, regardless of their experience, but also as someone who “did not suffer fools gladly”.

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The figure she left is significant as the SNP rarely receives such substantial amounts from individuals.

he identity of one of the biggest financial donors to the SNP in recent years can be revealed today. Picture: Gett

Laws set by the Electoral Commission dictate that all UK parties must declare every donation above a £7,500 threshold. In the first three months of 2018 the nationalists registered none at all – in sharp contrast to the Conservatives, who routinely declare six-figure sums from wealthy backers.

The SNP instead tends to rely upon smaller donations from its membership, which has grown to around 125,000 since the 2014 referendum.

Erasmuson was originally from Silverknowes in Edinburgh, but later moved to Peebles, where she became involved in the Tweeddale branch of the SNP.

She spent most of her career as a specialist teacher working with deaf children in the capital.

Maureen Erasmuson

“Maureen never married, but was a very dedicated party worker,” recalled fellow Tweeddale branch member Willie Archibald, who first met her when they both lived in Edinburgh as children in the 1950s.

“She was a great hillwalker and explored every peak around Peebles.

“She told me that when she was a young student at Edinburgh University, she went to hear what all the different political parties had to say so she could decide which society to join. The only party she felt any affinity to was the SNP.”

Councillor Stewart Bell, leader of the SNP group on the Borders Council, said Erasmuson was a private woman who insisted there be “no fuss” when she died.

Professor Sheila Riddell, director of Edinburgh Universitys Centre for Research in Education Inclusion and Diversity, says that despite no tuition fees for Scottish students becoming a real flagship of devolution, it cannot be demonstrated that its the right policy. Pic: Jane Barlow

“She was a great help to me when I was first standing for election, as she was to so many others,” he said.

The nationalists’ most famous financial backers are EuroMillions lottery winners Colin and Chris Weir, who reportedly handed the party and the official Yes Campaign for independence around £3 million ahead of the 2014 vote. Sir Brian Souter, co-founder of the Stagecoach transport empire, has not donated to the SNP since Nicola Sturgeon took over as party leader from Alex Salmond in 2014.

SNP depute leader Keith Brown said: “The SNP relies on the kindness of our supporters and is very grateful for every legacy we receive. It is thanks to individuals like Maureen Erasmuson that we are in a strong position to continue shaping our nation’s future success and progressing towards an independent Scotland.

“All gifts in wills, regardless of their size, are proudly recognised in our Book of Remembrance. It’s a testament to the commitment that people like Maureen have shown to the SNP that even after their death, they want to continue to be of help.

“With SNP finances in such a healthy state thanks to our mass membership, legacy gifts like Maureen’s are ring-fenced and held for future election or referendum purposes.”

IN NUMBERS

£3m: donations to the SNP and the Yes campaign from Colin and Chris Weir ahead of the 2014 referendum

0: The amount of significant donations the SNP declared in the first quarter of 2018

£2.5m: Amount donated to SNP by Brian Souter to the SNP before 2014

0: The amount Sir Brian Souter has donated to the party since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister