Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Money talks

Almost a year since they first published their donation information, Yes Scotland is about to disclose its second set of figures, probably next week.

Back in the old days, Yes Scotland wanted to publish its donations simultaneously with Better Together. Doing it at the same time would be “ideal”, said Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins. One hundred and eighty degrees later, he now says Yes Scotland won’t be “stampeded” by the Unionists.

Better Together has so far published two lots of donor names and numbers, the most recent being in December. But we’re still waiting on Yes Scotland.

What with Yes Scotland shedding all five of its top directors recently, you could be forgiven for wondering if they were having money troubles.

Earlier this month, I touched on the subject in a Sunday Herald interview with Jenkins. He wasn’t overjoyed. In the interests of openness and transparency, and to mark their new donor info, I thought it might be interesting to post our exchange in full.
Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins
I broached the subject by reading him a quote in which he said it was “vital to be open and transparent, particularly about funding”.

Sunday Herald: What happened to that commitment to transparency on funding?
Blair Jenkins: It’s still there.

SH: In a technical sense. You haven’t demonstrated it in a practical sense.
BJ: Well, we’ve said we’ll publish details of donations received and that’s our intention.

SH: When?
BJ: Em, we’ve said we’ll publish in due course.

SH: You made a commitment to transparency and as far as I can see you’ve just ratted on it.
BJ: No, that’s not true at all. We published information on donations received at the end of March last year.

SH: Well you published in April last year only after Better Together published their figures first. Better Together had their second tranche of figures out some time ago, but you have yet to publish.
BJ: You know that we approached Better Together in January last year and suggested that we should publish simultaneously, and we said we thought that was the best way to proceed. I didn’t actually get a reply to that.

SH (reading from Yes Scotland press release at the time): According to this you said - this is your letter to Alistair Darling - "We have always taken the view that is important to be open and transparent about any donations received and we intend to publish information on our funding sources in line with this policy... ideally on the same timetable."
BJ: Yep.

SH: So if a simultaneous timetable was ideal then, why have you chosen a divergent timetable now?
BJ: Well, having not got a reply from them to the suggestion that we publish simultaneously, we then took the view that, and we weren’t sure at that stage that they were going to publish at all...

SH: But now you know they’ve published
BJ: Yeah. When they published in the spring of last year we very quickly published our information there after.

SH: True
BJ: But having rejected our suggestion of an agreed process and an agreed framework for disclosing donations, we’re not obliged to now-

SH: Yes, but they hadn’t taken you up on the offer last spring and you went and published immediately afterwards. That was still the position at the end of last year, and when they published you did nothing.
BJ: But it made sense to us, it was the end of the financial year. It was a sensible time to publish. I think it’s a sensible time this year as well.

SH: You’re not as transparent as they are, though, are you? You’re the ones that were crowing about transparency, and yet you have not demonstrated it in practice.
BJ: People will know exactly where Yes Scotland’s funding comes from well ahead of the referendum and that is transparency. What more can you do than declare all donations received?

SH: Well declare more frequently than they’ve done. Better Together say they will also make one of these voluntary disclosures on the eve of the regulated period, so they will have three voluntary declarations before the regulated period begins. You will have, as far as I can tell, two at most.
BJ: We haven’t said that.

SH: So you will have a third?
BJ: We haven’t said that. We’ve still to agree with the board what we do. But we will be disclosing all donations received.

SH: But you can’t give us a date on this, or why you’re foot-dragging compared to Better Together on this?
BJ: It’s not foot-dragging. There’s no reason why we should adjust our plans because Better Together have [published] in December. Why should we adjust our plans?

SH: Because you have an oft-stated commitment to transparency
BJ: Which we’ll satisfy. But that doesn’t mean we have to be on their timetable. Why would we do that?

SH: So transparent, but not as transparent as Better Together?
BJ: Transparent, but not stampeded by Better Together. Not having to adhere to their timetable.

SH: Is it because you’ve received money from Brian Souter?
BJ: I’m not talking about donations. We’ll publish information.

SH: In line with your love of transparency, can you say whether you’ve received money from Brian Souter?
BJ: The information will be published soon. I’m not saying any more than that.

SH: In line with your commitment to transparency, can you-
BJ: At that point everyone who’s given donations above the threshold will be named at the point we publish donations received.

SH: You won’t deny taking money from Souter?
BJ: I’m not talking about individuals at all, Tom.


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