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24 June 2015, 07:38
Campaigners fighting to keep Scotland in the UK outspent their pro-independence rivals by more than £400,000 in the run-up to last year's referendum, new figures have revealed.
Registered campaigners spent a total amount of £6,664,980 ahead of the September 18 vote, an Electoral Commission report disclosed.
While the two lead campaigns, Better Together and Yes Scotland, spent almost exactly the same amount, when political parties and campaign groups were included, pro-union campaigners outspent those who wanted Scotland to leave the UK.
Spending by those campaigning for a No vote totalled £3,546,208 compared by £3,118,772 by Yes supporters.
"Out of total reported spending of nearly £7 million, there was a difference of just over £400,000 in total campaign spending by registered campaigners on each of the two sides of the debate,'' the report said.
"Both designated lead campaigners reported spending almost exactly the same amounts campaigning at the independence referendum: Better Together reported spending £1,422,602; and Yes Scotland reported spending £1,420,800.''
The amounts contributed by political parties on both sides of the debate were also roughly equal, at about £1.3 million.
On the pro-independence side, the SNP spent £1,298,567 while the Scottish Greens spent a much more modest £13,734 and the total for the Scottish Socialist Party was £12,728.
Labour spent £732,482 on referendum campaigning, more than twice the amount of the Conservatives who spent £256,191, while the Liberal Democrats spent £187,585.
While Better Together suggested the spending limit of £1.5 million for designated lead campaign groups was too low, the Commission said that it did "not believe that the designated lead campaigner limit was unduly restrictive''.
The report said the independence vote "represents a model that can be built on for any future referendums, maintaining a balance between campaigners being able to campaign as freely as possible while giving voters the opportunity to take part in a transparent and open democratic process''.
It made a number of recommendations which it said would "allow for better regulation'' of future referendums in both Scotland and across the UK, including measures to ensure that campaigners who are working together do not evade the spending limits.
John McCormick, Electoral Commissioner for Scotland, said: "This report serves to highlight that the Scottish independence referendum remains a good example of a well-run referendum. The lessons learnt in Scotland should provide an excellent template for how future referendums should be legislated for, administered and regulated.''