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SNP holds on to £2m earmarked for Yes Scotland

THE SNP has not handed over an expected £2 million independence war chest to the cross-party Yes Scotland campaign, the Sunday Herald understands.

Instead, the SNP has chosen to hold back most of the money, leaving Yes Scotland to run its own fundraising campaign as it tries to build early momentum in pursuit of a Yes vote in 2014.

The decision is being privately questioned by some in Yes Scotland – which includes the SNP, Greens and Scottish Socialists – who wonder why the SNP would withhold cash when the referendum is the best shot at independence in its history. The pro-Union Better Together camp suggested "SNP control freakery" could be behind the decision, with the party hierarchy lacking faith in the ability of the Yes Scotland campaign team.

However, by holding money back the SNP forces Yes Scotland to raise its own income, a useful skill for a political pressure group.

When Alex Salmond launched Yes Scotland last May, it was widely assumed it started life with a £2m war chest thanks to a £918,000 bequest from poet Edwin Morgan and £1m from Colin and Chris Weir, a Largs couple who won £160m on the EuroMillions lottery in 2011.

The SNP ringfenced the £2m for the referendum.

The impression that Yes Scotland was in line for the cash was reinforced by the First Minister's parliamentary aide, MSP Joan McAlpine, who wrote a few weeks later: "The Yes Scotland campaign will benefit from the generosity of our late beloved national makar, the poet Edwin Morgan, who left nearly £1m to the SNP. And from lottery winners Colin and Chris Weir, who gave the same."

Senior SNP members told the Sunday Herald there was a near universal belief inside the party that the whole £2m had already gone to Yes Scotland.

However, although the money has been banked by the SNP, the party hierarchy has decided not to forward all of it to the Yes campaign.

Yes Scotland refused to officially discuss the SNP's £2m.

But one Yes Scotland source said: "The balance of that [£2m] remains in SNP accounts. I'd speculate that if I was a large political party with a great big war chest, I would want to keep control of it too."

Another Yes Scotland source said the organisation had "enough" funds to operate.

The absence of the £2m from Yes Scotland's accounts may lie behind the campaign's repeated delays in publishing details of its donors.

An SNP spokesman refused to discuss the party's reasoning for not having already handed over all the money, but said the SNP was allowed to spend £1.3m in the closing stage of the campaign, which would also contribute to the Yes effort.

"The SNP's spending will be published by the Electoral Commission in the normal way," he said.

The Better Together campaign yesterday announced it was to target 120,000 SNP supporters as part of a drive to reach one million Scots this month.

The pro-Union campaign said it wanted the support of all voters, including those who backed Alex Salmond in 2011 but still wanted to keep the UK.

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