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Campaign spending and donations at referendums

There are rules on how much campaigners in referendums can spend on their campaigns and where they receive their funding from. This page contains an overview of those rules.

In general there are two types of referendums:

Other referendums may also be held under special legislation.  For instance, the 2014 referendum on independence for Scotland will take place under legislation made by the Scottish Parliament. Different laws, rules and regulations apply to these types of referendum. We only regulate PPERA referendums. We do not regulate local government referendums.

If you want to know more about local government referendums, you will need to contact your local authority. You can find contact details for your local authority by entering your postcode on our About my vote website.

Rules on spending, donations and loans

At PPERA referendums, campaigners can only spend up to a certain amount unless they register with us. This amount is usually £10,000. If a campaigner wants to spend more than this amount, they need to register with us.

There are limits on spending by registered campaigners at referendums. There are also rules on who can make donations to them for the purpose of campaigning.

Registered campaigners must record their campaign spending and donations they have received towards that spending. They must then send us this information in a spending return after the referendum.

Lead campaigners

Registered campaigners can apply to us to become the lead campaign group (known as a “designated organisation”) for one side of the debate.

The benefits for lead campaign groups are:

  • A higher spending limit than other registered campaigners
  • Assistance to send information to voters free of charge
  • Referendum campaign broadcasts
  • Free use of certain public rooms
  • A grant from us

Guidance for referendum campaigners

If you are thinking of campaigning in the run-up to a referendum, please check our guidance for campaigners in referendums

If you want to know more about local government referendums, you will need to contact your local authority.

Political parties, campaigning & donations