Euromillions winners give Yes Scotland another £1m

SCOTTISH Euromillions winners Colin and Christine Weir have handed another seven-figure donation to the Scottish independence campaign, it emerged last night.
Colin Weir (L) and his wife Chris pose for pictures after their win. Picture: GettyColin Weir (L) and his wife Chris pose for pictures after their win. Picture: Getty
Colin Weir (L) and his wife Chris pose for pictures after their win. Picture: Getty

The SNP-supporting couple from Ayrshire, who scooped £161 million in 2011, made the substantial donation as the referendum campaign enters its final 200 days.

Yes Scotland received £1m in a direct donation from the couple last year. A gift for the same amount handed to the SNP in 2011 has yet to be transferred to the cross-party campaign’s referendum war chest. The latest donation from the Weirs is likely to lead to renewed calls for the SNP to hand it over.

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Scotland on Sunday previously revealed that the SNP has refused to hand over the £1m from the Weirs along with a £918,000 bequest from the late Makar Edwin Morgan that was also intended for the cross-party campaign.

Last night the SNP refused to divulge details of the party’s most recent donations. Yes Scotland has yet to publish its campaign finances for the last year.

A senior SNP source confirmed that the Weirs – the biggest financial backers of the pro-independence cause – had decided to make a fresh donation to help cover campaign costs in the run-up to the referendum on 18 September.

It is not yet clear whether the Weirs have paid the latest donation directly to Yes Scotland or handed the cash to the SNP, which is funding its own party campaign for a Yes vote.

However, the latest windfall for the pro-independence campaign will be seen as an attempt to match the financial muscle of the Unionist Better Together group, which has received donations including £600,000 from hotel and distillery tycoon Donald Houston as well as a five-figure sum from Arsenal chairman Sir Chippendale Keswick.

The Weirs, who have donated large sums to good causes, are longstanding supporters of the SNP. After their EuroMillions windfall Alex Salmond wrote to the couple offering his congratulations and invited them to his official residence at Bute House.

Salmond and the SNP were last night accused of taking advantage of the couple and of using them to bankroll the nationalist campaign and “buy” the referendum.

Tory MSP Alex Johnstone, a member of Better Together, said: “While it’s the right of every individual to do whatever they wish with their money, the SNP is clearly taking advantage of these people.

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“Instead of trying to buy a referendum victory, the SNP should focus on answering critical questions about an independent Scotland on currency and EU membership. The SNP has not been transparent with its donations from the Weirs and the party should now stop taking money from them to fund an ailing campaign for a Yes vote.”

Yes Scotland revealed it had raised £1.7m in April last year, while the unionist campaign Better Together said it had £2.7m at the end of 2013. However, Yes Scotland is yet to publish details of its latest backers, with a spokesman saying earlier this month that the group “will be making an announcement in due course”.

Yes campaign chairman and former Labour MP Dennis Canavan and Greens leader Patrick Harvie said they were unaware what had happened to the nearly £2m from the Weirs and the late Makar.