HOLYROOD’S unionist parties massively increased their spending at the Holyrood election in order to stop the SNP winning an outright majority.

New figures from the Electoral Commission show the Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats almost doubled their collective campaign costs.

The SNP spent less in real terms than it had at the 2016 election and fell one seat short of a majority that could have helped it secure a second independence referendum.

The Commission today published the campaign spending returns of the four parties which spent more than £250,000 on last May’s vote.

The SNP spent a total of £1,468,343 and gained one seat to end on 64.

Their spending was just £2,816 or 0.2 per cent more than in 2016, an effective cut when factoring in inflation.

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The Scottish Tories were close behind, spending £1,359,435, up £380,514 or 39%.

Scottish Labour’s increase was even more dramatic, as its spending rose from £337,814 in 2016 to £1,176,410, a rise of £838,596 or 248%.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats’s spending also surged, from £186,448 in 2016 to £434,354, an increase of £247,906 or 133%.

Combined spending by the three unionist parties rose from £1,503,183 to £2,970,199, an increase of £1,467,016 or 97.6%. The total was more than twice the SNP's spending.

Although the outlay denied the SNP an outright majority, it made little difference to the unionist parties' own numbers - the Tories stayed still on 31 MSPs, Labour lost 2 MSPs to end on 22, and the Liberal Democrats fell from five to four MSPs. 

Total spending on the election, including by smaller parties, came to £5,062,019.

The bulk of the cash - almost £2.8million - was spent on “unsolicited material to electors”, such as leaflets through letterboxes.

The second biggest item was advertising, on which parties spent almost £942,000. 

Louise Edwards, Director of Regulation at the Electoral Commission, said: ”The Commission has now published all reported spending information from parties, campaigners and candidates relating to last year’s Scottish Parliament election. 

“Delivering this transparency ensures voters are able to see clearly and accurately how money is spent on influencing them at this election.”