THE SNP spent more than a quarter of a million pounds on “expenditure directly related to the campaign for independence” up to the end of 2021, party accounts show.

Published by the Electoral Commission on Wednesday, the SNP accounts state that, up to December 31, 2021, a total of £740,822 had been raised “through the independence related appeals”.

The accounts further stated that up until the same date, a total of £253,335 had been set against this income, while the remaining balance of £487,487 had been “‘earmarked’ for independence-related campaigning”.

The SNP said in previous accounts that it had spent £51,760 of the independence fund in 2020, meaning that just over £200,000 was spent in 2021.

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A spokesperson said that the funds had been spent on “extensive” research into public attitudes to independence, as well as producing campaign materials such as the November effort to deliver one million pro-independence papers to households across the country.

The accounts stated: “Of course, the SNP is the party of independence and, as such, every action we take – directly or indirectly – is in support of winning independence. However, we continue to take a very strict approach to ensuring that this income supports expenditure directly related to the campaign for independence.

“We will ensure that an amount equivalent to the sums raised from these appeals will go directly to our work to secure a referendum and win independence.”

The SNP faced frequent accusations of having used the funds raised for the independence campaign on other spending. These were strenuously denied by top figures including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

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Elsewhere in the published accounts, signed off by party treasurer and MSP Colin Beattie (above), it is shown that the SNP spent around £700,000 more than it took in in 2021.

While the party raised £4,510,460 in 2021 – 85% of which it said came from the voluntary donations of members and supporters – it spent £5,262,032.

This shortfall was largely reflected in a drop in the SNP’s reserves, which fell from £1,362,337 to a total of £610,765.

Similar accounts show Labour spent around £5 million more than it raised in 2021, the Tories just about broke even, spending £300,000 more than they raised, and the LibDems raised around £900,000 more than they spent.

The SNP further outlined how it had achieved the best value for money during the 2021 Holyrood election campaign. In the accounts, it said:

  • The SNP spent £0.61 per vote / £22,943 per MSP.
  • The Conservatives spent £1.11 per vote / £43,853 per MSP.
  • Labour spent £1.10 per vote / £53,473 per MSP.
  • The LibDems spent £1.33 per vote / £108,588 per MSP.
  • The Scottish Greens spent £0.91 per vote / £28,988 per MSP.

The accounts also show that the SNP membership largely held steady from December 2020 (when it had 105,393) to December 2021 (when it had 103,884).

The impact of the Covid pandemic was cited as the reason for a drop-off in members from around 125,000 in December 2019.

The SNP suggested that membership may have take a further hit amid the cost-of-living crisis gripping the UK.

In the 2021 accounts, the party stated: “Public concern about the economy and job security has impacted on membership income in the first half of 2022, with the soaring costs of living being given as the reason for cancelling or lowering their membership payments.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “The countdown to the referendum on October 19, 2023 has well and truly started.

"Our campaigning for independence is ongoing. We must prepare for a referendum to win a referendum.

"Those preparations last year included extensive public attitude research and the production of a range of campaign materials including one million copies of an eight-page pro-independence newspaper.”