We must end dark money and billionaire influence in politics

Vested interests are having a dangerous and undemocratic impact on our politics.

It is vital that we overhaul political funding to tackle the corrupting influence of ‘dark money’ and wealthy donors, say the Scottish Greens.

The party has published plans for increased transparency and strict restrictions on how parties are funded.  

This follows recent changes introduced by the Tory Government to increase spending limits and the threshold for anonymous donors, a rise in large individual and corporate donations to the Labour party, and revelations that Reform is largely funded by climate deniers and the fossil fuel industry.

Changes that the Scottish Greens have called for include stricter spending limits, new transparency laws to tackle ‘dark money’ donations and ensure full disclosure, preventing donations from companies and individuals based outside of the UK, and empowering the Electoral Commission to effectively investigate and sanction infringements.

The party’s Co-leader, Patrick Harvie MSP, said: “Our politics should never be for sale. Yet there is dark money and a cast of dodgy donors right at the heart of Westminster and this election. 

“When billionaires buy into political parties they are buying influence. The Tory Party has long been a vehicle for vested interests and those that benefit from a broken status quo, but Labour are now fast becoming the party of the billionaires. We should also be deeply concerned about the multi-million pound investments into Reform by fossil fuel interests. 

“In the long run we need to move to a fair system of state funding of political parties to create a truly level playing field, but there are important steps we can take right now. We need far stricter limits on donations and campaign spending, and tougher transparency and enforcement rules.

“Our politics needs to represent the voices of normal people and families across our country, not the big businesses and cast of millionaires that are funding our biggest parties.

“It is not an accident or a coincidence. It is the end result of a fundamentally undemocratic system that has put far too much power in the hands of a small number of wealthy cronies.”

Mr Harvie added: “Questions of dark money plagued the Brexit referendum, and they have not gone away. We need transparency and accountability if we are to have a free and open democracy.”

From the Scottish Greens general election manifesto 2024

Bringing greater transparency to how politics is funded in the UK is an essential step to protect a free and open democracy. 

The next UK Government must fully implement the recommendations made by the Committee on Standards in Public Life report into regulating election finance, including: 

  • Increasing transparency requirements for unincorporated associations making donations to political parties, to stop secret ‘dark money’ groups from funding election campaigns. 

  • Extend disclosure laws on unincorporated associations to apply to individual candidates, as well as political parties. 

  • Place a requirement on political parties to have a procedure in place for identifying and disclosing the true source of donations. 

  • Ban foreign organisations or individuals from buying campaign advertising in the UK. 

  • Significantly increasing the cost of fines for breaking electoral finance rules. 

In the long term, the Scottish Greens are calling for public funding of political parties, creating a level playing field and preventing wealthy individuals from disrupting free and open elections. 

This would include creating upper limits on the amounts an individual or campaign group can donate, and the amount parties and candidates can spend during an election.

More in 2024 Westminster Election