Folding Green Stuff

26 09 2014

Yesterday we journeyed through the SNP finances and tried to put some figures on what the remarkable membership surge means for the balance sheets.  Today it’s the turn of the Greens.

[Again, as before, all stats/figures etc are taken from accounts submitted to the Electoral Commission and available for your perusal at their website.]

In some ways, the numbers the Scottish Greens are attracting outstrip the SNP.  From a base of 1,178 at the end of 2013, the latest figures tweeted by Patrick Harvie suggest a figure approaching since 6,000 – we’ll assume for these purposes that the surge continued from yesterday, but then mysteriously stopped, potential members holding back in pursuit of arithmetical neatness.  The SNP’s measly 125% increase in a week pales in comparison to the c.400% the SGP have seen.

The Greens’ accounts reveal they employ a single staff member on a national basis, who must surely be blankly staring at the wall twitching uncontrollably by now, wondering what the hell just happened.  She’ll undoubtedly be joined by others in the near future (as employees, not uncontrollable twitchers).

In 2013, income from membership was £23,895.  Taking those 1,178 members into account gives an average membership sub per person of £20.28 per annum.  Now multiplying that out by the 6,000 members claimed takes the membership income to £121,680.

Donations amounted to £50,090.  This includes £15,600 from the two Green MSPs (which won’t change before 2016), leaving us £34,490 in regular ol’ donations from members and supporters.  A six-fold increase in membership and donor base might not result in a six-fold increase in donation income.  So being incredibly cautious, let’s say three-fold-ish.  That increases donation income to c.£103,470 a year, without even factoring in the election effect next year.

£121,680 in membership subs + £103,470 in donations = £225,150 per annum.  Their total income for 2013 was £93,870!  That’s a massive increase crypto-Marxist whale-saving tie-dying.  And like my SNP analysis yesterday, it doesn’t factor in the increased revenue and fundraising potential available to local branches.  Given the Greens’ decentralising and subsidiarity-focused ethos, it’s a fair bet many members will want to shovel their cash to the local organisation rather than to national HQ.  Who knows what that adds up to?

Conference income, at £9,174 in 2013, will shoot up too.  Already the party has had to move to a bigger venue for this autumn’s gathering, and future conferences will need increased capacity, and likely increased exhibitors.

What do they spend the money on?  Expect better quality literature and materials.  Expect better and more systematic organisation on the ground – with a few honourable exceptions, the Greens’ approach to voter ID, canvassing, and targeting at elections has been patchy to say the least.  A full-time campaigns organiser with increased organisational capacity and resource is likely first on their shopping list.

There’s an interesting question about where these new members come from – geographically rather than philosophically.  The Greens’ heartlands, and thus the source of the bulk of membership, are in a few areas of the country, mostly Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Stirling, and even within those there’s a tight geographic spread.  Not many activists in Royston or Arden, I’d imagine.  If these members are distributed across the country rather than concentrated in already relatively strong areas, it brings the possibility of active Green branches in areas that, frankly, haven’t seen so much as a sticker from them in the last 20 years.  Although see this tweet from Edinburgh Uni rector Peter McColl – if Edinburgh has gone from 400 to 1400 members, that’s a disproportionate number in the capital and thus less for everyone else.

It also raises, in my mind anyway, an interesting a wee tidbit I heard over the last year – around half of all Green members had a Masters/PhD qualification or higher.  That must have made it the most be-lettered political party in the world.  That imbalance must surely have changed over the last week.  Together with the fact the vast bulk of new members will be pro-independence, compared with the significant minority of members previously who either sat on the fence or who were explicitly No – including their former co-convener Robin Harper – it’s a transformational change for any party.

Meanwhile the Scottish Lib Dems, with 2,831 members at the start of this year, claim a subscription income of £141,842; at £50.10 per person this seems on the high side, and given they don’t separate out their elected members’ levy (5% of salary going back to the party [EDIT: It’s actually 10%, according to Michael Crick]) unlike the SNP & Greens, I do wonder what the real figure is for rank and file members.  Whatever the truth, the Greens are now over twice as large as the yellow peril.  Worth a bar chart or two, surely?

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