SNP Independence Fund line: Political parties should be subject to same rules as charities when it comes to giving – Scottish commentary

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The dispute over funds raised by the SNP for an independence campaign shows the need to change the rules on donations (Photo: Danny Lawson / PA)

The dispute over funds raised by the SNP for an independence campaign shows the need to change the rules on donations (Photo: Danny Lawson / PA)

The money was raised through crowdfunding campaigns between 2017 and 2020, apparently on the basis that it would be spent on a future independence campaign.

However, after it was revealed that the party had less than £ 100,000 in the bank, the SNP has now admitted that the money has mostly been spent.

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Since the raison d’être of the SNP is to gain independence, some may argue that this is fair enough – the party is constantly campaigning for independence and it needs funds to do so. Others may view this as a fallacy.

However, the key question is not what politicians or members of the commentariat think. Rather, it’s whether those who actually donated to the funds would feel cheated if their money turned out to be going on paperclips at party headquarters, rather than being saved to campaign for a future. referendum on independence, as they might expect.

The SNP’s commitment to devote “an equivalent amount” to the independence campaign in the future suggests that it recognizes that this could be a problem, at least for some donors, although it also raises a question about the conditions under which this new sum would be acquired.

If it is collected as general funding, but earmarked for the independence campaign and not spent, donors can object in case the party begins to experience financial difficulties or curtail its general activities. If it is raised as an independence fund, it will not replace donations used for general party funding.

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SNP admits spending £ 600,000 of funds ‘confined’ elsewhere

Such problems do not currently arise in the charitable sector – at least not legally – due to much stricter rules regarding the ring-fencing of funds. If the money is collected for a specific purpose, it cannot be spent on anything else and charities are required to produce a detailed audit trail to prove that the money was used the way the donors were. been informed that it would be.

In the old days, it was not really possible to control the “sales pitch” of the small-scale fundraisers who had a pub kick-ass. But then the amounts involved would have been much lower, so any wrongdoing would have been less serious.

The arrival of crowdfunding sites on the Internet has made it easier than ever to donate to political parties – as well as to charities and other good causes -, thus increasing the potential size of the amounts collected but also the control of the argument. of sale.

All parties need to recognize this and accept that fundraising from the public in the crowdfunding age must be fully transparent with rules if not the same as those of charities.

Failure to do so will only deter people from making political donations and could potentially encourage misuse of funds.

Public cynicism about politics is already a serious problem for democracy and one that all parties should strive to reduce. Changing the rules can help, but the situation would be much better if politicians kept their word, whether legally obliged to do so or not.

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