Sunday, 13 February 2011

Keep the Cash

BRIAN Souter, the millionaire founder of Stagecoach, has pledged to give the SNP up to £500,000 for their Holyrood election campaign.
Good news for the SNP, right? Well, not entirely.
True, the party needs the money.
In the last couple of years it spent almost £250,000 on three Westminster by-election campaigns (Glasgow East, Glenrothes, and Glasgow North East) and now has nothing to show for it but the distant memory of John Mason's win in the first of them.
According to its most recent set of accounts, it had debts of more than £500,000.
So there's no doubt that in terms of cash flow, the donation is welcome.
But there are, of course, other dimensions.
Souter's pledge comes with strings - and baggage.
The donations underlines that, no matter the claims made about reaching out to broader Scotland, the party remains hugely reliant on one man with a controversial past.
The negative reaction on Twitter shows Souter's infamous bankrolling of the Keep the Clause campaign remains unforgiven.
As Green MSP Patrick Harvie put it today: "The campaign against Souter's bigoted agenda inspired me to get into politics, and any principled party would have told him where to stuff his money."
Labour, meanwhile, have resurrected the SNP's sudden decision to drop a commitment to bus re-regulation (which Souter hated) ahead of the 2007 poll.
What's Souter looking for this time? Charlie Gordon asks.

Intriguingly, Souter is also being less generous than he was last time around.
Then, he gave a total of £625,000 between 22 March and 18 May 2007.
Now he's talking about giving "up to" £500,000, and all of it conditional on match-funding.
In other words, he'll only give a pound is someone else gives one first.
Taking inflation into account, that means he'll give a maximum of £450,000 at 2007 prices, meaning his overall contribution will be down by at least a quarter in real terms.
Is he less convinced of an SNP win this time given Labour's lead in the opinion polls?
That, and many other questions, will dog the SNP all the way to May 5.

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