Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Who are the big and small money referendum donors?

Harry Potter author JK Rowling has donated £1m to the Better Together campaign, which is opposed to Scottish independence.

On the other side of the debate, lottery winners Chris and Colin Weir have given £3.5m to Yes Scotland since its launch.

The Electoral Commission laid down strict rules around how much each side can spend during the official referendum campaign, which began at the end of May.

Voters go to the polls on 18 September.

But what are the rules and who are the donors, big and small?

Who are the big-money donors?

Image copyright PA
Image caption Lottery winners Colin and Chris Weir, from Ayrshire, have given £3.5m to Yes Scotland

According to the latest Yes Scotland figures, EuroMillions winners Chris and Colin Weir are their biggest donors, having given £3.5m since the campaign was launched in May 2012. The couple have each given £1.25m since April 2013. They have also given £2m to the SNP in recent years.

Others who have given large donations include investment fund manager Angus Tulloch, who donated £250,000, while Randall Foggie, an unsuccessful SNP council candidate from Kirkcaldy, gave £60,000.

JK Rowling's £1m donation has made her Better Together's biggest single donor to date. The next biggest single donation came from oil trader and Conservative party donor Ian Taylor, who gave £500,000. There were calls for him to return the donation after his company admitted giving money to the national oil company in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, which was outside the UN's oil for food programme.

According to the campaign's most recent figures, other big donations have come from businessman Donald Houston, who gave £100,000 - and a further £500,000 through two of his companies - and author CJ Samson gave £133,000 on top of a previous donation of £161,000.

Who else has given money?

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Sir Alex Ferguson gave £501 to the pro-Union Better Together campaign

Many smaller donations have also been made to both sides.

Better Together's most recent figures, published in December 2013, show the campaign has received almost 27,000 donations of less than £7,500 since it was launched in June 2012. Among them was a £501 donation from former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson - £1 higher than the £500 maximum First Minister Alex Salmond proposed for donors outside of Scotland. The vast majority of these donations were for less than £500.

Yes Scotland figures show that between the campaign's launch in May 2012 and the last disclosure in May 2014, around 18,000 donations of less than £7,500 had been made.

How much can people donate to the campaigns?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Better Together campaign received around 27,000 donations of less than £7,500 between June 2012 and December 2013

There is no limit on what people can donate - but there is a limit on how much individuals and groups can spend during the formal campaign period, which runs between 30 May and 18 September.

The two official campaign groups, Better Together and Yes Scotland, can spend up to £1.5m each during that period.

Anyone else can splash out up to £10,000 on campaigning. If they want to spend any more, they need to register with the Electoral Commission.

All registered campaigners must report their campaign spending to the Electoral Commission as well as donations and loans over £7,500.

How much can political parties spend?

During the restricted period, each political party has a different spending limit, according to their share of the votes in the Scottish Parliament.

The largest party, the SNP, is allowed to spend £1,344,000 while the Greens - Holyrood's other pro-independence party - have a £150,000 limit.

Scottish Labour gets to spend £831,000, the Scottish Conservatives £399,000 and the Scottish Liberal Democrats, £204,000.

What activities count towards the spending limits?

Image copyright Scottish Political Archive
Image caption There are spending limits on campaign materials such as billboards

Basically anything used to promote a particular outcome in the referendum. That means campaign broadcasts and advertising such as posters, websites, letters and leaflets.

Market research, press conferences, rallies and events and transport costs are also part of the tally.

Some things aren't included in the spending limit. Volunteers and staff employed by the campaigner don't count.

Expenses met out of public funds - such as security costs for VIP visits - are also excluded.

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