Fundraising is an ‘important part of modern campaigning’, Angus Robertson campaign responds
Former SNP depute leader Angus Robertson has defended his spending on online campaigning to be selected as an SNP candidate for next year’s election.
“Fundraising is an important part of modern campaigning,” a spokesperson for Robertson told Holyrood.
The spokesperson added that online advertising is a “legitimate, permissible and effective way” of getting the message out.
The comments come in response to criticism of Robertson’s campaign spending by former government minister Marco Biagi in which he referred to “dark money donations”.
Biagi wants the SNP to put a £100 limit on spending for the internal selection process to become an SNP candidate for next year’s Holyrood election.
He said allowing potential candidates to spend unlimited sums on selection was “harming the party” and the spend would favour prospective candidates who had the profile to raise money, limiting the ability of those from under-represented groups to stand and taking funding away from campaigning in the election itself.
Biagi did not name Robertson specifically in his comments, but the figures he quoted were for Robertson’s spending on Facebook adverts and Biagi referred to “one of the other potential candidates to declare an interest in Edinburgh Central”.
Both Biagi and Robertson are putting themselves forward for selection to contest the seat of Edinburgh Central for the SNP.
According to SNP selection rules for the 2021 Scottish Parliament election, the only permitted means of campaigning are participation in online hustings; contact with members through the authorised email system; the use of a website, a personal Facebook page or a personal Twitter account; and communication through a candidate’s own personal contacts.
Normally, face-to-face canvassing would be allowed, but this has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, restricting would-be candidates to online campaigning and email, as well as online hustings.
Robertson’s spokesperson said: “SNP selection candidates are pretty much limited to online campaigning, which is why digital marketing is so important.
“Marco and Angus, as well as a range of SNP representatives, use online advertising as a legitimate, permissible and effective way to get their message out.
“Whether we like it or not, fundraising is an important part of modern campaigning.
“Edinburgh Central will need a candidate who has the ability to help raise the necessary funds for the SNP to win a closely contested race with the Tories. It will take tens of thousands of pounds.
“Marco’s call for a £100 spending limit is completely unrealistic, which is why he himself has already commissioned four times that amount in Facebook advertising.
“Of course the SNP and all political parties should keep their rules up to date, in addition to the close regulation of political campaigning by the Electoral Commission and using crowdfunders which collect information to ensure that there are no impermissible donors.”
Meanwhile, Robertson has launched an online meeting system for SNP members to discuss their priorities with him ahead of candidate selection.
The former SNP depute leader said that the digital booking system on his campaign website will help undecided SNP members raise their priorities directly with him before they cast their votes.
A similar system was recently launched by SNP MP John Nicolson for online constituency surgeries.
Robertson said: “SNP members should be able to speak with their potential candidates and this online system makes it easy to organise.
“Members just need to visit my website and make an appointment at a time that suits them. We can then have a coffee and a chat over the phone or on a Zoom call.
“With an SNP membership over 1,400 in Edinburgh Central, I will spend quite a time speaking with undecided members who want to raise their priorities before casting their vote.
“SNP selection rules have been tightened to only allow the use of websites and social media, so it is important to be accessible to members and communicate effectively across all platforms.
“Should I be selected and elected as the SNP MSP for Edinburgh, I intend to continue using the online system for constituent surgeries.
“Outgoing Tory MSP Ruth Davidson has an appalling track record for not holding publicly advertised surgeries and in contrast I want to be as accessible as possible for constituents.”
Potential SNP candidates had until 4pm on Monday 21 September to advise the party’s national secretary of their interest in running in a particular constituency.
In seats where there is only one nominee, which is expected to be the case for most sitting SNP MSPs, a confirmation ballot will take place by the end of September.
Where there is a contest for the nomination, ballot papers will be issued during October and November.
Voting is scheduled to be completed in all seats by the 18 November.