THE SNP is asking its supporters to dip into their own pockets to boost the campaign warchests of its general election candidates, as experts predicted that the UK is about to see its first 'crowdfunded' political campaign.


For the first time, the party has launched a co-ordinated campaign on website Crowdfunder, which is designed to allow individuals to make small donations to projects online. Alex Salmond is among the SNP candidates appealing for cash, with prospective nationalist MPs in 17 other key constituencies joining the drive.

It follows a similar project by the Green Party south of the border, which raised £225,000 in just four months. One digital consultant said that this year's general election is likely to be the first UK poll in which crowdfunding plays a significant factor, and may go down in history in the same way that 2010 campaign is remembered as the first fought on Twitter.

Supporters of the method of political funding, which was pioneered by Barack Obama in his 2008 run for the White House, believe that it is more democratic and transparent than the traditional system, which often sees candidates rely on large donations made by wealthy individuals or firms who may have vested interests.

Tim Wright, director of Glasgow-based crowdfunding consultancy Twintangibles, said that the SNP's intelligent use of social media, as displayed during the referendum campaign, meant it was in a strong position to take advantage of crowdfunding.

He said: "There is a very strong connection between social technology and crowdfunding. The SNP are very savvy in the digital arena and it's interesting to see them doing this in a very co-ordinated way.

"People feel they can take ownership of a process through crowdfunding. It's not just about money, they become advocates and activists with tremendous benefits for people on the receiving end of the support. There is a desire to get away from centralisation and directly engage with what's happening locally. I think this is a manifestation of that."

SNP candidates are aiming to raise a combined £67,000 through the Crowdfunder website, with Mr Salmond setting the most ambitious target of £10,000. Party candidates have also made appeals on the Indiegogo platform worth around £40,000.

Mr Salmond is already halfway to achieving his goal, although he is lagging behind East Renfrewshire candidate Kirsten Oswald, who has raised almost £6,000 after she appealed to nationalists to help her "kick Jim Murphy out" through Indiegogo. A similar sum has been pledged to help fund Natalie McGarry's campaign in Glasgow East.

The former First Minister, who is on course win the Aberdeenshire seat of Gordon comfortably according to polls, said that cash raised through crowdfunding was making a difference to SNP candidates across the country.

Mr Wright said that use of crowdfunding had risen hugely since the 2010 election, and that he believed the new feature of the political system was here to stay.

"In 2010 it was the first time we saw social media and Twitter play a significant role, now we're seeing the first serious manifestation of crowdfunding in UK politics," he added. "It's still in its infancy, but it has tremendous potential to really change the way we do politics and re-engage people with what most seem to regard as a fairly broken system. In future, I fully expect to see new parties grow entirely in a digital context."

Scottish Labour Party insiders said that the party was set to launch its own crowdfunding drive in coming weeks, although some of its candidates have already set up appeals. The Green Party in Scotland has raised more than £6,000 through small online donations, ahead of the launch of its Crowdfunder drive.

A spokesman for the party said: "Unlike other parties we don't rely on wealthy backers or corporation donations. Online crowdfunding certainly makes it easier for our supporters to chip in, helping us mount effective campaigns."