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SNP 'will not use new-found wealth for campaign'

THE cash-rich SNP will resist the temptation to flaunt its new-found wealth by raising the limits for campaign spending in the referendum, The Herald understands.

The consultation document being laid out by Alex Salmond today is expected to say that the main campaign on each side should be limited to spending £750,000 – as set out in a consultation paper on a draft referendum Bill two years ago.

Political parties represented at Holyrood could spend a further £100,000 on their own, badged campaign. Any individual or group wishing to spend more than £3000 would have to register as a "permitted participant" and publish their identity.

There will be a similar section in today's consultation paper and the SNP's opponents were looking to cast a keen eye on it, given that the Nationalists have received two huge donations in recent months – one of almost £1 million from the estate of the late National Poet Edwin Morgan, and another for fully £1m from supporters Colin and Chris Weir, the Largs couple who won EuroMillions.

If today's paper had raised spending limits, opponents could have been expected to cry foul. However, The Herald understands the Government is not planning to go down that road and will suggest figures identical to those of two years ago, drawn up at a time when the SNP feared the No campaign, able to draw on backing from across the UK, might be able to swamp the Yes side financially.

The 2010 consultation also suggested there might be two questions in the referendum –the first a broad question about more powers for Holyrood, the second seeking full independence. This is likely to be echoed by the Government's latest consultation, which will stress that although an independence question is a given, consideration should be given to a "devo max" question.

The last consultation envisaged a franchise based on the same criteria as the right to vote in Holyrood elections and also mooted the idea of lowering the voting age to 16, something which will feature again today.

The same applies to the proposal that the body overseeing the referendum should be answerable to the Scottish Parliament rather than Westminster. A Scottish Referendum Commission was to be created but ministers have said the UK Electoral Commission could take on the role, provided that it is answerable to Holyrood.

An aide to the First Minister indicated that responses to the consultation will be considered from all over the UK and beyond, but that most weight would be given to those from eligible voters in Scotland.

Referring to both the running of the referendum, and the detail behind independence or greater devolution, he said the responses could touch on all of these issues.

"We want the best possible, fullest debate Scotland has had on this nation's constitutional future," the aide said.

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