08 December 2007

The Expenditure Column

Having spent a good long while looking at the Income column of party accounts, news comes of the Expense column, thanks to the release of the parties' spending during the May campaign.

In terms of overall outgoings, the SNP come first, with £1,382,730. Labour spent £1,102,866. The Tories spent £601,982 and the LibDems £303,740. The Greens spent £108,162 while Margo MacDonald's re-election campaign cost £22,105.29.

In terms of how much every seat cost, the Green seats were the most expensive at £54,081 spent per seat won. The 17 Tory seats - Alex Fergusson was a Tory until becoming PO, remember - cost £35,410.71 each. The SNP shelled out £29,419.79 for each of their 47, compared with Labour's £23,975.35 per seat (though, of course, the election cost them power, so it wasn't great value). The LibDem seats were a comparative bargain (until you factor in loss of power) £18,983.75, which makes their MSPs cheaper to elect than Margo MacDonald.

In terms of the cost of each vote on the two ballots, a Green vote was the most expensive, at £1.26. Margo spent £1.15 per vote, and the SNP spent £1.07 per vote. The Tories spent 97p for each vote, while Labour spent 89p. LibDem votes were good value, at just 55p per X.

So the fact that the SNP outspent and outpolled Labour may be telling, but remember that at the last Westminster election, the Tories were second in terms of Scottish campaign spending, but fourth in terms of Scottish votes and seats. Again, this time, the Tories nationally spent almost double what the LibDems coughed up, and got only 61,845 votes over the two ballots, and one more seat, to show for it. So simply to say there's a correlation between spending and polling doesn't tell the whole story. This time - unlike the 2005 Election - the parties who did get into Parliament do find that their expense ranking corresponds with their ranking in terms of public support and Parliamentary strength, and the high cost of Green votes may be explained by the fact that in 72 of the 73 Constituencies, there was only one opportunity to vote Green rather than two. The same applies to Margo MacDonald, who was only on the Regional Vote in Lothian, and did not seek any constituency.

However, leaving them out of the equation for a moment, an SNP vote cost almost double the price of a LibDem vote. Food for thought.

One last thing: a number of people commenting on the online versions of the papers have sniffed that the press have dug this story up to bail Labour out. In fairness, I should point out that the Electoral Commission will have released their figures this week, and it's a broadly similar timescale to the publication of the 2005 Westminster campaign figures. So anyone looking for an accusation that this story is a part of a Unionist media conspiracy will have to look elsewhere. Surprising as it may seem, co-incidences do actually happen from time to time.

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