In recent years, Scottish Labour has liked to decry the SNP as the party of big business, pointing an indignant finger at the eye-watering donations from Brian Souter. They personalise the issue of donors and donations in a way no other party does.
So it’s time to turn the tables. FACT: Scottish Labour received more donations from businesses and companies in the run up to the Scottish elections than the SNP did.
One of the biggest was the Co-Op, or to be precise, the Friendly Society that is Scottish Midland Co-operative Society. Known locally as Scotmid, it exists in local communities all over Edinburgh and the Lothians, these supermarkets service the convenience market and those who are too poor, old or disabled to be able to make it out to a bigger store for their weekly shop. Nice to know that the extra pennies (the convenience premium) they charge on every pint of milk and loaf of bread sold convert to donations totalling £10,000 for Edinburgh and Lothian CLPs.
Here is the full roll of donors and donations, as recorded by the Electoral Commission:
Peoples Ltd donated travel, presumably cars, to the value of £3,993.66;
Moorpost Ltd gave administrative services worth £3,500 (this may in fact have been take away meals as this is Moorpost’s line of business);
ScottishPower plc provided sponsorship in February 2011 to the tune of £2,937.50;
Chivas Brothers Ltd provided more sponsorship worth £2,850.00 – that will be the whisky company in Jackie Baillie’s constitutency which opposed minimum pricing, saying it threatened jobs;
Thompson solicitors donated £2,500 in February 2011 and a further £7,000 in April – the firm that is supporting John Park MSP to draft a member’s bill on the living wage;
Holland House Property Investment Ltd gave £2,000;
G1 Group plc, owners of the Corinthian Club and Ghillie Dhu and many other clubs and pubs, gave £10,000;
Training Initiatives Ltd, based funnily enough in the same building in which Douglas Alexander MP has his constituency office, donated £2,750;
Aldergate Realities, MGN Ltd, which appear to be based in Nottingham; Oakford Farms Ltd which are located in Essex and GVA Grimley Lt, a property consultancy with its head office in London – all donated £2,000 each. What was that about folk donating to elections they don’t have a vote in again?
Digby Brown solicitors in Edinburgh gave £2,000;
And lookie here, what’s this? a donation from a bus group! The £,2000 from First Group plc is ridiculously small beer compared to Souter’s wads. But his donations are from his personal wealth, which I do acknowledge was gained from the cut-throat and rather unpleasant world of the de-regulated bus market. But here is a company which has also benefited from the privatisation of bus and train routes donating profit to Scottish Labour. It isn’t the first donation either, and they have also received personal ones from its former Chief Executive, “Sir” Moir Lockhead. Gosh, doesn’t this all sound very familiar? What’s that you say about people in glass houses? Quite.
You want another odd one? Okay, how about £2,400 donated by Law Society of Scotland Services Ltd. That’s right, the body which purports to “lead and support a successful and respected Scottish legal profession” wanted Labour to win the last election and was prepared to fund it to do so. I wonder if it consulted all its members before deciding to donate?
ADDENDUM: Ian Smart, former President of the Law Society points out that it sponsored events for each of the party conferences and as he rightly points out, that should show in their recorded donations – Labour did not get anything different from any of the others is his point. Yet, the Electoral Commission entry does state that Labour’s was a cash donation, so I have encouraged him to check and follow up with the Commission.
The amounts are pretty trifling, particularly when weighed against the costs of an election campaign, but it is the principle and the actuality that counts. And according to the donations declared to the Electoral Commission for the first six months of this year, Labour had considerably more financial backers from business than the SNP.
However, it remains the case, that at UK, Scottish and local level, trade unions are still Labour’s biggest financiers. Indeed, should the unions ever shun, either voluntarily or by changes to the rules, its support for the supposed party of the “working man” (sic), Labour would be stuffed. Here’s what different trade unions donated to their comrades in Scottish constituency parties or to the Scottish party generally between January and June 2011:
ASLEF (train drivers and engineering personnel) £6,000
Communication Workers’ Union (the posties) £11,000 approx
UNISON (public sector mainly) £16,600
COMMUNITY (manufacturing sector mainly) £27,200 and an additional £4,000 approximately in sponsorship and auction prizes
GMB (mainly manual and lower skilled workers ie the ones who tend to be lowest paid) £114,000 and it also donated £4,348 in staff costs
RMT (rail workers and seamen) £2,000
UCATT (specialist construction workers) £6,000
USDAW (shop workers) £42, 800
UNITE (the biggest union in Britain) £94,500
Transport Salaried Staff Association £4,000
Ultimately, all of us – businesses, unions and individuals – are free to give our money to causes which we share and deem appropriate. But it is the hypocrisy and lack of transparency that bothers me. The audit trail shows quite clearly that Scottish Labour is more beholden to business than the SNP is, but it does not stop the puerile taunting and jeering.
As for the union money? Well, it’s one reason I opt out, for I don’t believe any union money should go to fund any political party. But aside from the likes of John Park MSP, who takes his union antecedents with him into the Parliament and focuses on issues that matter to union members like training, skills and the living wage, I think Scotland’s union members might be entitled to question what they get for their bankrolling. What does Labour do for them that they cannot get from the SNP these days?