Better Together group asks supporters to stop giving it money

Large number of small donations followed Scottish TV debate

Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond who  could go head-to-head in two further televised referendum debates. Photograph: PA

Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond who could go head-to-head in two further televised referendum debates. Photograph: PA

Thu, Aug 14, 2014, 01:00

Better Together, the Scottish campaign group bidding to persuade Scots to reject independence calls in next month’s referendum, has told supporters to stop giving it money.

A large number of small donations were made in the wake of last week’s TV debate between former Labour chancellor of the exchequer, Alistair Darling and Scottish National Party leader, Alex Salmond.

Both sides can spend £1.5 million in the final weeks of the campaign, which ends on September 18th, under rules that are monitored by the Scottish Electoral Commission. Better Together now says it has enough.

Up to now, a large percentage of Better Together’s funding has come from business and landowners concerned about the effects independence could have on their interests. However, it has argued that it has received far more small donations than the pro-independence group, “Yes, Scotland” has and that those numbers increased dramatically after the TV debate. Colin and Chris Weir, who became the UK’s biggest-ever winners in Euromillions Lottery when they won £161 million three years ago, have contributed £3.5 million to “Yes, Scotland”. In total, the couple had at one point contributed just shy of 80 per cent of all of the money given it , while they have also given £2 million to the Scottish National Party.

‘No more money needed’

Responding to Better Together’s “no more money needed” declaration, “Yes, Scotland” said the anti-independence organisation is funded by “billionaire bankers, property companies and Conservatives”. Meanwhile, wealthy businessman, Brian Souter, who heads Stagecoach, one of the UK’s biggest bus companies, has announced that he has given £1 million to the SNP. Souter is a controversial figure in Scottish politics because of the campaign he ran 15 years ago to stop the abolition of legislation barring local authorities from “promoting” homosexuality. He gave money to Business for Scotland and to Christians for independence, though Yes, Scotland was warned by some supporters that they would not work with it if it took money from him.