There's been much hoo-ha this week about SNP fundraising. I'm not going to comment on the news articles, other than to say that I attended Osama Saeed's fundraiser on Tuesday night to support him as our candidate for Glasgow Central. I paid my husband and I in for the princely sum of £15 a head. We were entertained by some heartfelt speeches, and the dinner was pretty tasty too.
Osama is up against the might of the Sarwar dynasty - according to the Electoral Commission register, since 2007, the Labour party have recieved £23,862.03 in catering and staff and £18,596.54 in cash from Mr Sarwar and his family. Muslim Friends of Labour, which has been associated with Mr Sarwar, has donated the quite phenomenal sum of £330,950 to the Labour party since 2005, mostly to fight in Scottish Campaigns. From these sums alone, you may begin to see what the SNP is up against in Glasgow Central.
The SNP is a party new to electoral success, and our fundraising tends to be done the way it always has been - locally, by the party faithful. I remember being blown away at our pre-election campaign conference in 2007 by announcement after announcement of huge sums of money pouring into the party coffers. Nationally printed glossy literature was doled out to campaigns. It was a huge change from the previous elections I was involved in, and it showed just how many more people we could reach with that extra funding.
I have a folder full of leaflets from past campaigns - mostly done on a shoe-string budget, risographed in black and white. If we were pushing the boat out, these would have additional yellow ink, or be printed on yellow paper. This is still the norm for most campaigns. Our candidates tend to have a budget only of what the local branch can raise themselves. For my own leaflets, I pay for the paper, write the leaflets, print and distribute them myself, sometimes with assistance from the local branch.
I attend SNP fundraisers on a regular basis. When we thought that Brown was going to go for an early election, candidates were selected and 'adoption nights' were quickly held.
I have no idea what other parties do, but in the SNP adoption nights are where the candidate is formally endorsed by the branch. There usually follows speeches by the biggest names a candidate can muster (all favours are called in!) and if you're lucky, some other form of entertainment - a ceilidh or musicians. Raffles are a certainty. The most entertaining and eclectic adoption event in recent years was Anne McLaughlin's pre-2007, which featured fancy dress, karaoke, and spacehopper races!
In addition, branches hold regular events. Maryhill hold a racenight - not with videos of horses, but with wee horses and furry dice. On the south side, the Pennycooks have been holding cheese and wine events for over twenty years. Burns suppers are of course a popular fundraising event, although for sought-after speakers I've heard 'haggis fatigue' is an occupational hazard!
Most candidates in Glasgow are choosing to take a second bite at the fundraising cherry - a year after their initial adoption, with the General Election much later than they thought when they were selected, another round of fundraisers are looming.
I doubt if any of these will feature fundraising on the scale of Osama's event, but the difference is this; we are still a small party. We don't have trade unions or a host of wealthy funders. We have a limited pool of elected representatives to call on for donations, and the ones we have are very generous with their time and their money. 38p of every £1 the SNP has is donated by individual members, and 21p comes from membership subscriptions.
The money we raise pays for leaflets and other campaign merchandise, and goes towards the cost of telephone canvassing. The SNP don't pay members to go round the doors to speak to you, or to deliver leaflets. We rely almost entirely on our members to volunteer, on the doorstep and behind the scenes.
The youth wing, the YSI, raise money to allow young members to get around the country to campaign. I do my bit by baking cakes to sell at party conference, and our Conference karaoke also brings in the pennies. In 2007, we campaigned in the North East, the Western Isles, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and many places in between.
I personally have visited Council by elections from Glasgow to Elgin; I do this of my own volition and without so much as petrol money.
I do it, and so many of our members do the same, because we believe in our party and our cause.
It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.