SNP spend more in Shetland by-election than across whole of Scotland for EU referendum

So the election spending returns from the Shetland by-election are out.

We spent £64k and won.

The SNP were right up against the limit, spending £99k.

But they only spent £90k in 2016, across the whole of Scotland on the EU Referendum.

As a Remain campaigner in West Lothian, I found it deeply frustrating that SNP activists kept saying that they were too tired from the Holyrood elections to fight the EU referendum.

If something is important, it doesn’t matter how tired you are. You get to sleep in a few weeks.

I don’t, to be honest, think that David Cameron’s insistence on holding the referendum just weeks after the Holyrood election was fair, but it was where we were.

We got out there and fought. And the SNP were tired. Even though they spent three years in the run-up to the independence referendum in 2014 hanging around on every street corner trying to persuade people to their cause.

Alistair Carmichael, MP for the Shetland Scottish Parliament seat, who welcomed so many Lib Dems up there in August, said:

The fact that the SNP spent more on the by-election in Shetland than in the entire EU referendum campaign speaks volumes. It is disappointing but hardly surprising, considering how much lucre they flashed around in the Northern Isles over the summer.

Apparently one more vote for independence in Holyrood was worth more to the nationalists than their European values. It’s a shame they don’t put their money where their mouth is.

It shows the cynicism of the SNP leadership’s position on the EU. They tell their supporters one story on Europe, but their actions tell another. They back the EU with words, but the truth is that they see Brexit as a golden opportunity to push independence at the price of our country’s well-being.

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  • Dennis Wake 17th Oct '19 - 2:40pm

    The by election was for the Scottish Parliament Shetland seat. Mr Carmichael is the Westminster MP for Orkney and Shetland.

  • Curious things happen in politics.

    I recall reading Michael Meadowcroft’s obituary of the late (and very competent and respected) Pratap Chitnis. Michael wrote that Pratap privately admitted to spending three times over the limit when we won the Orpington by-election in March, 1962…. holier than thou should be practised with some caution.

  • Geoffrey Payne 17th Oct '19 - 8:39pm

    Those of us who are political activists are volunteers and we decide what is important. It seems odd to criticise activists from another political party of being tired. If true that is their lookout.
    I am old enough to remember when the SNP favoured leaving the EEC (the forerunner of the EU). We should be very grateful that today they support Remain, had they stuck to their previous position we might have lost the referendum by a bigger margin and SNP votes might have seen Brexit through already.
    I think we as a party ought to be more grateful to the other political parties who are resisting Brexit one way or another rather than trying score points off each other. We should focus our minds on defeating Brexit, and for that matter on defeating climate breakdown, and reign back on the petty party politics.

  • Fortunately this article was written by a Scottish member so the error in the article saying that Alistair Carmichael is “the MP for the Shetland Scottish Parliament seat” will be brushed off as a typo. Heaven forbid an English member makes such a typo; all hell would break lose. I remember the freaking out that went on from the Scottish editorial staff when Liz Leffmen wrote an email to the whole party, signing off as Chair of the English Party. Sigh

  • What an odd article, really. Why attack the activists of any other party? By the way, Plaid Cymru make a similar argument about Lib Dem funding in Wales (ie it comes from England). The SNP have inflicted serious damage on the govt, and in the courts, and for that at least deserve some credit.

  • Slightly odd comments in response to this article.
    The simple point being made is that it is odd, to say the least, for a party to spend more in half of the smallest parliamentary constituency than it did across the whole nation.
    Perhaps the more significant point is that Remain parties did not take the Referendum seriously enough, miscalculating that Remain would win without excessive effort. The zealots were on the Leave side and many of us underestimated them.

  • JohnMc “Plaid Cymru make a similar argument about Lib Dem funding in Wales (ie it comes from England)” That’s not the point being made in this article at all.

  • Allan Brame 17th Oct ’19 – 11:44pm:
    Perhaps the more significant point is that Remain parties did not take the Referendum seriously enough, miscalculating that Remain would win without excessive effort.

    The official returns published by the Electoral Commission show that Remain spent 45% more than Leave…

    ‘The Electoral Commission – Campaign spending at the EU referendum’:

    One hundred and twenty-three organisations and individuals registered with us as campaigners at the referendum. Altogether, the 123 campaigners reported spending £32,642,158 on campaigning at the referendum.

    Remain: £19,309,588.

    Leave: £13,332,569.

    This does not include the £9.4million spent on the government leaflet in contravention of the Council of Europe’s guidelines for conducting referendums which prohibit the use of public funds for campaigning.

  • The SNP were desperate to take hold of representations of Shetland from the LibDems because there is a strong possibility of Scottish separation. However, with Liberal representation in Shetland, there is every possibility of Shetland and possibly Orkney from taking a status similar to the IoM and C.I’s, which would make the Islands rich from natural resources, but could have their foreign affairs represented by the FCO and Westminster, to stay under the Crown and to be able to pick and choose Westminster Legislation.

    The IoM and C.I’s all have higher GDP per head than the UK, yet they don’t have the oil, gas and high value fish landed from the northern seas. Shetland would rather have Liberal self government than to be run by a distant Edinburgh which would be hungry from revenues to finance it’s deficit, after losing grants from the Treasury.

  • This is a surprise to none of us who can remember the massive difference between the 2014 and 2016 referendums. Obviously, nationalism is the SNP’s primary goal and has been for its entire existence, so of course they were going to spend big in 2014, but Geoffrey rightly points out, it’s not that long ago that the SNP were wanting to leave the EU and using that as a reason for Scottish Independence.

    The inevitable consequence of that is that there are still a decent chunk of long-term SNP members/activists who thought we should leave and didn’t like that the party’s official stance by 2014 was to Remain, so they kept campaigning muted to avoid upsetting those supporters. Of course, you get the likes of expats thinking that the SNP didn’t need to campaign for the benefits of the EU in 2016 because Scotland had a majority of votes to Remain, but that overlooks the substantially reduced turn-out between the 2014 and 2016 referendums, or that one of the most prominent Remain voices in 2016 was Ruth Davidson.

    In practice, Sturgeon, a bit like Corbyn, wasn’t much of an asset to the Remain campaign. I recall her using her UK wide media appearances to stoke division between the different parts of the Remain campaign. In particular, I remember her appearance on the Andrew Marr show where she used the time allocated to a Remain politician to criticise David Cameron, giving support and ammunition to the Leave Leave Campaign’s claims that the expert advice was “Project Fear”. I remember, pre-referendum day, various nationalists wondering whether voting Remain or Leave would make it more likely to get another independence referendum.

    But most importantly it shows that the SNP see everything through the prism of nationalism and the chaos as Brexit is just their latest opportunity to strike division within the UK. It’s great they are now pro-EU, but those not in Scotland need to remember that they are much more anti-UK than pro anything else.

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