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Former minister Marco Biagi calls on SNP to clamp down on ‘dark money donations’

Simon Clayson - Flickr

Former minister Marco Biagi calls on SNP to clamp down on ‘dark money donations’

Marco Biagi has hit out at the SNP’s handling of candidate selection, with the former minister claiming the process has been “left tilted towards those with the richest friends” and calling on his party to clamp down on “dark money donations”.

Biagi, who is seeking selection as the SNP candidate for Edinburgh Central in the upcoming Scottish Parliament election, said he had approached his party’s HQ with concerns but had received no response and that the “mishandling” of the process put grassroots candidates at a disadvantage.

The former local government minister said he had gone public with “the greatest reluctance” but felt he had been left with no choice after writing to national secretary Angus MacLeod and SNP chair Kirsten Oswald.

Biagi highlighted the money spent by his selection rival Angus Robertson, without naming him, saying the former depute leader had spent up to £1,500 on Facebook advertising and raised £1,230 in anonymous donations through an online crowdfunder, which few candidates would be able to match.

MP Douglas Chapman and MSP Richard Lyle both also raised concerns over candidate spending on social media.

Biagi said: “The ongoing mishandling of the current process for selecting SNP candidates for next May’s elections is harming the party.

“The SNP prides itself on being a democratic organisation that affords opportunity to all members to participate. But this is not the impression currently being given.

“If the party’s National Executive Committee wants to restrict Dominic Cummings tactics or dark money donations they could do it any time. And they should.

“All the work that has been done to ensure gender equality and disabled representation is wasted if candidate selections are left tilted towards those with the richest friends.

“SNP candidates should be raising money to unseat our opponents, not each other.

“Every donation spent on an internal selection is one less available for campaigning on our shared objective of independence.

“In the 2018 depute leadership election paid social media advertising was limited by party rules. Why not now?

“I have raised this internally and it has gone nowhere. I have exhausted internal channels and so with the greatest reluctance I am taking my concerns public so that members will know what is going on.

“I just believe ordinary party members want to see a level playing field – is that so much to ask?”

Responding to Biagi’s comments, an SNP spokesperson said: “Even in internal elections, donations are fully regulated by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendum Act (PPERA) 2000.”

Biagi was MSP for Edinburgh Central from 2011 to 2016 when he stood down. Ruth Davidson then won the seat for the Scottish Conservatives in the 2016 election.

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