SNP selection spending row to result in conference motion


DELEGATES at the SNP conference will be asked to back a motion calling for spending caps in selection races following a row over cash being splurged by candidates in Edinburgh Central.

Two of the hopefuls in the constituency have previously clashed over funding.

Now members in the local branch have backed a motion to go to the party’s national conference, which would see “a maximum limit that candidates for selection may spend on selection campaigning and include processes for the definition, classification and verification of such expenditure.”

It also calls for the party’s ruling National Executive Committee to “operate a register of donations to selection campaigns to identify donors to candidates and associated sums, setting out processes for its scope, operation and publication.”

It is understood, the motion – which is being co-sponsored by candidate Marco Biagi, the SNP disabled members group, and Glasgow Central MP Alison Thewliss – was backed unanimously.

READ MORE: Former minister urges SNP to bring in spending caps

Biagi welcomed the support from the branch.

He told The National: “When I was a minister I created the Access to Elected Office Fund to help disabled people meet the accessibility costs of standing for election.

“It is therefore one of my – and I believe the SNP’s – core principles that members should be able to go forward for election on a level playing field. Financial barriers come in many forms however, and by limiting selection campaign spending we will create a fairer process.”

Jamie Szymkowiak, co-convener of the Disabled Members Group, said it was important that the caps did not include any extra spend needed by candidates who had additional support requirements.

He said: “This constitutional amendment on selection campaigning is about fairness, and as campaign techniques and modern technology evolves, it’s only right that we revisit this issue.

“Nevertheless, the SNP’s Disabled Members Group is clear that any potential limit introduced must exclude any financial support which pays for the additional impairment related costs that disabled people face when running for elected office.”

The issue of spending has been one of the dominant issues in the battle to be the SNP’s candidate in Edinburgh Central.

There are currently four candidates in the running for the seat currently held by Tory boss Ruth Davidson with a majority of just 310.

As well as Biagi, they include former SNP depute leader, Angus Robertson, and activists Lee-Anne Menzies and Mridul Wadhwa.

Biagi, who served as Local Government Minister under Nicola Sturgeon, stood down as the MSP for Edinburgh Central in 2016.

READ MORE: SNP selection row as potential candidate accuses rival of trying to buy victory

He surprised activists over the summer when he announced his intention to take back the seat.

His announcement came after the MP Joanna Cherry withdrew from the race following the introduction of new party rules on dual mandates.

Last month Biagi and Menzies were among signatories to a letter calling on SNP HQ to expressing concerns about “unlimited campaign spending, especially on paid social media advertising, and the attendant growth of crowdfunding”.

Because of coronavirus and the restrictions on gathering, the party has been forced to introduce strict new rules on canvassing.

The guidance says the only “permitted means” of attempting to win over members is digitally.

A number of candidates have turned to social media advertising to boost their bids.

Some have used online crowdfunders to help raise cash to pay for the adverts.

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