Anas Sarwar spent more than twice as much as Richard Leonard in the Scottish Labour Party (SLP) leadership contest held late last year. A large proportion of the donations came from businesses linked to his family.
Sarwar spent over £150,000 during the ten-week election campaign. The largest campaign donation (£41,000) came from United Brands Ltd., part of United Wholesale (Scotland) Ltd. (UWS), which was founded by Sarwar’s father and uncle and is now run by his brother Asim.
Nearly £3,000 was donated by United Tradeston Ltd., another spin-off from UWS, to help fund Sarwar’s campaign-office costs. Sarwar’s mother, a shareholder in UWS, also donated £20,000 to her son’s election campaign.
(Sarwar transferred his own 23% shareholding in UWS to his children after the company’s failure to recognise a trade union and pay the Scottish Living Wage had become a major media issue. Sarwar and his wife, another UWS shareholder, had received £500,000 in dividends from their shares in UWS.)
£40,000 was donated to Sarwar’s campaign by Kasim Gulzar Ltd. Gulzar is also one of the two co-owners of the Honey Pharmacy Group, which owns a string of pharmacies across Scotland. The other co-owner is Sarwar’s brother Asim.
A further £40,000 was donated by the PG Paper Company Ltd., set up by the millionaire couple Poonam and Puneet Gupta. PG Paper is wholly owned by SAPP Holdings Ltd., the head office of which is a postbox in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands.
A spokesperson for PG Paper explained the rationale for the donation: “We were excited by the prospect of electing the first ever ethnic leader of a political party in UK history and the positive message that would have sent about Scotland.”
(Some confusion there about the actual status of the SLP and its relation to the Labour Party. And there is no record of PG Paper making a donation to Diane Abbott when she stood for leader of the Labour Party in 2010.)
Another £10,000 was donated by the Glasgow multi-millionaire businessman Willie Haughey, who runs City Refrigeration Holdings.
Donations to Richard Leonard’s campaign amounted to just under £65,000, £60,000 of which came from trade unions: Unite (£30,000), GMB (£12,000), UNISON (£9,000), CWU (£5,000) and USDAW and ASLEF (both £2,000).
The remainder came from Thompsons Solicitors (£2,130, for office space) and individual donations.
SNP MSP James Dornan showed the SNP’s true political colours when he subsequently condemned Leonard for the source of his election campaign’s funding, by using the Tory mantra of ‘Labour in the pocket of the trade unions’:
“It’s clear now why every comment Richard Leonard makes is about defending trade unions – he owes his position to their funding.”
The overall £200,000 plus spent on the SLP leadership contest, mostly by Sarwar, contrasts with the £65,000 expenditure on the 2014 SLP leadership election, contested by Jim Murphy and Neil Findlay.
But if the total expenditure in 2014 was a lot lower, the split between the two candidates was the same: two thirds of the total spent by Murphy, and one third by Findlay.
[All financial figures for donations taken from entries in Holyrood Register of Interests for Anas Sarwar and Richard Leonard.]