The Electoral Commission

The independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK

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Electoral Commission publishes details of spending by campaigners at the Scottish independence referendum

Published: 14 May 2015

The Electoral Commission has today published details of the spending by those campaigners that spent more than £250,000 campaigning at the Scottish independence referendum.

Forty-two organisations and individuals registered with the Commission as campaigners at the referendum. Altogether, they reported spending £6,664,980 on campaigning at the referendum.

Campaigners spending more than £250,000 were required to submit an independently audited return to the Commission by 18 March 2015.

Reported spending by campaigners

Reported spend (£)
Better Together 2012 Ltd
Yes Scotland
Conservative Party
Labour Party
Scottish National Party

Full details of campaign spending at the Scottish referendum can be viewed here.

Leave to pay

The legislation sets deadlines for the receipt and payment of invoices related to referendum expenses.

Registered referendum campaigners must not, save with the grant of leave by the Commission, pay an invoice that has not been received by them from the supplier within 30 days of the poll; and any payment must then be made by the campaigner within 60 days of the poll. The Commission will grant leave to pay if, on the facts of the case as set out by the campaigner, we are satisfied that it is appropriate to do so.

In deciding whether to grant leave we consider the facts of each case, and will generally grant leave unless by doing so there will be any loss of transparency, or unreasonable detriment to the supplier.

The Commission has received 41 leave to pay applications to date from campaigners. 37 applications for leave to pay were received from Better Together, 2 applications were received from the Conservative Party and 1 application was received from WFS2014 Ltd. All have been have been granted. Details of these are available to view on our website here.

Reported Donations

As part of their spending return, campaigners were also required to report details of all individual donations of a value over £7,500 accepted from 18 December 2013. They were also required to report a combined total for any donations accepted of a value between £500 and £7,500.

The breakdown between campaigners registered for both outcomes was:

Donations over £7,500
Donations £500 - £7,500Total

Registered campaigners were required to complete four pre-poll reports setting out what donations and loans they had received over £7,500 between commencement of the referendum legislation on 18 December 2013 and 5 September 2014.

These four pre-poll reports were published by the Commission prior to the referendum and can be viewed here.

6 campaigners reported having accepted individual donations of over £7,500 since the final pre-poll reporting deadline on 5 September.

Details of all individual donations of more than £7,500 can be accessed on our online database here.

To see an overview of donations made to campaigners see our website here.


Registered referendum campaigners were required to submit to the Commission invoices over £200. The submitted return of the registered campaigner Better Together is missing some information making the return incomplete.

For such matters relating to the Scottish Independence Referendum the Commission liaises with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) in Scotland.
We are consulting with the COPFS in order for them to consider whether they will open an investigation into this matter. Depending on the response from the COPFS the Commission will then consider whether to take any further action itself. 

Any potential breaches of the legislation taken forward by the Commission will be considered in line with our enforcement policy.

Our enforcement policy and any recent cases can be viewed on our website here.

The Commission is also preparing a report to be published with any recommendations to changes to the rules on spending by campaigners that can inform the rules for future referendums.


For further information contact the Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704 or
Out of office hours 07789 920 414

Notes to editors

  1. The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up by the UK Parliament. Our aim is integrity and public confidence in the UK’s democratic process. We regulate party and election finance and set standards for well-run elections and are responsible for the conduct and regulation of referendums held under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (2000).
  2. The Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013 gave the Commission a number of responsibilities for the Scottish independence referendum for which we report directly to the Scottish Parliament.
  3. A full list of registered campaigners for the Scottish independence referendum can be seen here.
  4. Campaigners spending between £10,000 and £250,000 were required to submit spending returns by 18 December 2014. You can view our press release from the publication of the spending returns under £250,000 here.
  5. Registered campaigners were limited as to how much they could spend during the formal ‘referendum period’ (which began on 30 May and ran until the close of poll on 18 September). Designated lead campaigners had a maximum spending limit of £1.5 million each. Other registered campaigners had a spending limit of £150,000.
  6. The spending limits for political parties represented in the Scottish Parliament were:
    - Scottish National Party (SNP): £1,344,000
    - Labour Party: £831,000
    - Conservative Party: £399,000
    - Liberal Democrats: £204,000
    - Scottish Green Party: £150,000
  7. Political parties are not required to submit details of donation and loans as part of their spending return and instead report their donations and loans to the Electoral Commission on a quarterly basis.
  8. For more information about the rules regarding donations and loans at the Scottish Independence Referendum, see our media handbook here.
  9. The figures reported by campaigners have been rounded to the nearest £. Exact figures are available on our website.