Scottish Labour spent nearly £200,000 on social media adverts in the run-up to the election, more than three times more than the SNP, new figures have revealed.

Figures obtained through Facebook’s Ad Library show Scottish Labour splashed £93,780 promoting their own Facebook page through 402 adverts, with a further £94,029 promoting the Anas Sarwar page with 75 adverts in the 90 days prior to May 6.

Posts included pleas from Gordon Brown, video endorsements from party members, and a repeated number of posts calling for the public to back Labour with their second vote.

They gained 22 seats at the election, which equates to around £8537 spent per seat won.

Those figures have been described as a “disaster” by the SNP’s Keith Brown, who also slated the “ultra-negative” campaign of the Scottish Conservatives.

HeraldScotland:

However, Scottish Labour said they were, for the first time, “competitive digitally” and are “building a sophisticated operation” towards being an alternative to the SNP.

The Tories spent the second highest of all the parties on Facebook promotions – a total of £110,255 for 117 targeted ads.

With their 31 seats returned, this works out at around £3,556 per seat.

Meanwhile the SNP spent £54,334 on 98 ads on party’s official page and just £4,965 on 12 posts on that of Nicola Sturgeon.


READ MORE: Alba Party spent £25,000 'down Mark Zuckerberg's toilet' as election ad spend revealed


The comparatively small spend for the nationalists, a total of £59,299, works out at around £927 for each of the 64 seats won.

Keith Brown, the SNP’s campaign director, said: “These figures are a hammer blow for the Tories and their ultra-negative campaign - they are also a great endorsement of the SNP's digital communications strategy.

"Boris Johnson and Douglas Ross's party blasted double the cash that the SNP invested in digital ads and yet they won less than half of the number of seats that we did.

"The UK government will have spent a fortune on Twitter ads too - but people in Scotland are not daft and see right through all this Tory spin. 

"This represents a disaster for Labour too, their combined Facebook spend is three times ours.

“Fact is the SNP’s digital campaign was far more engaging than the rest and no other party can compete with our huge organic share rate.”

The Alba Party, whose leader Alex Salmond admitted early on during the counting that his party was unlikely to make a breakthrough, spent £25,218 on 28 promotions.

Internet political campaign expert Dr Rhys Crilley, part of the Department of Politics and International Relations at University of Glasgow, said it is “no surprise that some parties spent incredible amounts of money on Facebook ads in order to get their message across to voters.”

He added: “The fact that Labour spent way more than any other party on Facebook ads yet had their worst performance ever in the history of the Scottish parliament demonstrates that throwing money at online advertising isn't an effective strategy if your policies and politicians don't appeal to the Scottish public.

“The same can be said of Alba, who were confident that because they were pro-independence, they could take enough of the SNP's list vote to get seats in Holyrood, but their social conservatism and uninspiring vision for independence has no appeal with voters.

“By spending £25,000 on Facebook ads and absolutely bombing in the polls, Alex Salmond basically poured his supporters money down Mark Zuckerberg's toilet.”

Dr Crilley said that with such a large membership base, the SNP “probably don’t have to rely on spending” as much as other parties.

He also pointed out that many of the SNP ads featured an endorsement from Line of Duty star Martin Compston – something that may perform better “when compared to other political ads which can often be pretty boring”.

HeraldScotland:

Elsewhere, the Scottish Greens spent £40,165 on 244 ads, meanwhile the Scottish Lib Dems paid £42,262 on 474 posts.

Commenting on the findings, a Scottish Labour spokesman said: “For the first time in recent political history Scottish Labour is competitive digitally.

“We’re building a sophisticated operation as part of our journey towards building the alternative to the SNP”. 

A spokesman for the Scottish Tories said: “The Scottish Conservatives fought this campaign on doorsteps, in the press and online.

“We stopped an SNP majority, as we promised, and won our best ever result with an extra 100,000 votes than 2016. For the second Holyrood election in a row, we have 31 MSPs and we have won more votes than ever before.

“We were the only pro-UK party to improve our standing and we have cemented our place as Scotland’s strongest and largest opposition party.”

And Alba Campaign Manager and Senior Councillor Chris McEleny said: “Alba’s strength was in the thousands of members that joined the party to campaign for Scottish independence.

“It’s no surprise that the Tories spent nearly as much as all the pro-independence parties combined.

“Questions about where that money has come from have long been asked, whereas the independence movement thrives on the support of ordinary people across Scotland.

“Although social media is a medium that many people use, Scottish independence will be won by winning the hearts and minds of the people of Scotland by getting a campaign for independence up and running, not by topping a Facebook spend league table.”

HeraldScotland:

Commenting on the Scottish Greens’ figures, a spokesman said: “This election has seen the highest spend by all political parties since devolution began.

“The Scottish Greens do not have wealthy corporate donors and instead rely on supporters and members, so it is no surprise that our overall spending on advertising has been dwarfed by the other parties.

“Despite this, the Scottish Greens grew our vote all across Scotland and were the only opposition party to make gains at this election.”

And a spokeswoman for the Scottish Lib Dems said: “We used a variety of campaign techniques, leaflets, doorstep conversations and online advertising.

“Our message got through to people in our strongest areas and we achieved record-breaking majorities.”