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How the SNP beat Labour, part 2159

Further explanation on how the SNP ended up trouncing Labour in May’s Scottish election campaign have been revealed.

Detailed papers were released last week showing exactly how all the parties spent their money during the run-up to the 5 May poll, when Alex Salmond’s party stormed to a majority victory over Iain Gray’s Labour. They show massive disparities in the way the two leading parties chose to focus their appeal to voters.

Labour’s disastrous campaign spent two-thirds of all its money - amounting to more than half-a-million pounds- on mostly unwanted flyers and letters posted through people’s doors.

As campaigners admitted at the time, such leaflets have a longevity of around five seconds - the time it takes for households to pick them up from the doormat and put them in the bin.

Labour spent far more on such "unsolicited material" than the SNP, even though, overall, the Nationalists out-spent their rival by £1.1m to £816,000 in the run-up to election day.

And while such material also made up the largest chunk of the SNP’s spending, the detailed figures on election spending show it focused far more cash on other key areas.

More than £200,000 was spent on "market research or canvassing", as the SNP painstakingly researched exactly what it was that voters were thinking and how they intended to vote prior to May.

The spending also allowed SNP campaign chiefs to identify and track their expected vote in the weeks before polling day, which matched exactly with what the SNP was expecting.

Many such supporters were called up in the days before polling and on polling day itself to remind them to back the SNP.

By contrast, Labour spent £32,623 on market research and canvassing, more than £70,000 less than it did in 2007.

Labour sources said last night that "the figures speak for themselves". Campaigners say the massive disparity was caused because the campaign only got proper funding around two weeks before the polls opened. This is blamed on the fact that the party was reliant for a large part of its funding from the UK movement.

It was therefore left with little option but to throw cash at leaflets in the hope they would hit home.

However, SNP campaigners believe this may have been counter-productive, as voters got angered by the amount of Labour mail-shots cluttering up their doormat.

A key part of Labour’s internal review, instigated over the summer, has been to recommend that Scottish Labour take full control of its finances away from the UK party, so that in future it can spend money at an earlier stage in the campaign.

A source said: "You have to invest early in the long campaign. The SNP was in a strong position because they had money up front. For us, it was the other way round."

The SNP’s early spending also allowed them to buy up key advertising billboards across the country well in advance of the campaign. The SNP was thus able to outspend Labour by £294,600 to £115,900 on advertising - another crucial advantage.e The detailed figures on campaign spending - which include individual receipts lodged by all the parties involved in the campaign - show further disparities in the way the two parties spent their money.

The SNP spent £18,000 hiring a helicopter for Alex Salmond to use during the campaign. On the day before polling, it enabled him to visit a series of Labour-held seats which the party had been able to identify as being vulnerable. All but one then fell to the SNP.

The Nationalists also lavished tens of thousands of pounds to produce a video of Edinburgh alternative rock band Jakil performing the campaign’s theme tune "Let’s Work Together". The band were paid £3,172, according to receipts, while the film company producing the video were paid £76,374. EMI, which holds the rights for the song, were paid a further £11,750.

Prior to the campaign, the party spent £4,840 on a series of photographs of the party’s six strong cabinet. Meanwhile, the party’s glitzy manifesto launch at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Dance cost it well over £10,000.

Labour’s receipts, by contrast, show it spent less than £2,000 on its own manifesto launch, held at Clydebank College in a seat it subsequently lost.

Other receipts published by all the parties last week show it cost the Scottish Conservatives £10,381 to bring Prime Minister David Cameron up for two visits to the campaign.

The sum was the share they had to pay for Cameron’s helicopter flight from RAF Northolt to Glasgow and Inverness.

A Labour spokesman said last night: "A lot of Labour’s campaign was carried out by activists going out and delivering our message to people on their doorstep. There was also a lot of micro targeting of key messages to groups of the electorate."

An SNP spokesperson said: "It looks like a large part of Labours campaign spending was simply thrown in the bin. The SNP listened to the people of Scotland, their concerns and ambitions and spoke to them directly about our record in government, our team for Scotland and our vision for the future and we will continue to do so."

Posted by Eddie Barnes

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