Scotland politics

SNP removes independence referendum fundraising page

ref.scot website Image copyright ref.scot
Image caption The donations page had been part of the SNP's ref.scot website

The SNP has taken down its fundraising page for a second independence referendum ahead of schedule.

The appeal was launched on 13 March - the day that Nicola Sturgeon called for another vote on independence - and had been due to run until 21 June.

But it was closed early having apparently raised about half of its £1m target.

The SNP won 35 of the 59 seats in Scotland in last week's general election - 21 fewer than in 2015.

The party's share of the vote also fell from 50% to 37% as the Scottish Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats picked up seats across the country.

Ms Sturgeon has said that her party's plans for a second referendum were "undoubtedly" a factor in the election result.

But she warned against "rushing to overly-simplistic judgments" and said she would instead "reflect carefully" on the way forward.

The fundraising page had been part of the SNP's ref.scot website, which featured a video message from Ms Sturgeon urging voters to back her plan to hold an independence referendum in the autumn of 2018 or the spring of the following year.

The website also encouraged supporters to sign a pledge "to support Scotland's referendum" and to print out signs proclaiming their backing for a referendum and independence.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ms Sturgeon is facing calls from pro-UK opposition parties to drop her call for a second referendum

The donations page had hoped to raise £1m in 100 days - with £200,000 being handed over in the first 24 hours of the site going live - but the Herald reported it had raised about £482,000 before being taken down.

It is not clear when the donations page was taken down, although the rest of the website is still available.

Screenshots posted on social media suggest the donations page was still visible in May, while the Herald said that the donations drive was still running on Thursday of last week.

However, a spokesman for the SNP told BBC Scotland: "Money raised on ref.scot is ringfenced for the purpose stated on the website - and we haven't been actively raising money on that website since the election was called in April.

"Our general election appeal will pay for election campaign expenditure."

Scottish Labour said it would be writing to the Electoral Commission to call for an investigation into what had happened to the money that was donated.

Tory MSP Maurice Golden said: "The fact the SNP have stopped fundraising through this website shows they are in retreat when it comes to a second independence referendum."