Scottish Labour paid Tory spindoctor for election help

SCOTTISH Labour spent thousands of pounds getting political advice from a Tory spindoctor during last year’s Holyrood election, it has emerged.

Campaign records released today show former Scottish Conservative communications director Eddie Barnes also helped write speeches for Anas Sarwar’s campaign.

An invoice published by the Electoral Commission shows Scottish Labour paid a company owned by Mr Barnes £13,000 for work during the campaign.

The money was paid for “political consultancy, polling analysis, speech writing, etc”.

Some of the campaign and polling work was done by staff working alongside Mr Barnes.

The SNP said it showed Labour and the Tories were in a “toxic alliance”.

Mr Barnes was Ruth Davidson’s spindoctor when she was leader of the Scottish Tories, helping her turn around the party’s electoral fortunes.

The former journalist quit the post in 2020 and now works for Gordon Brown’s pro-union thinktank and campaign group, Our Scottish Future.


His involvement in Mr Sarwar’s campaign emerged last May after it was revealed by the Spectator magazine.

Asked about Mr Barnes’s involvement, Mr Sarwar said at the time the pair were friends.

“He obviously has huge experience in running election campaigns, and Eddie can see who is building the credible alternative to Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP,” he said. 

Although Mr Sarwar was widely considered to have had a good campaign in terms of profile and presentation, his party went backwards in terms of MSPs.

The spending was revealed among hundreds of invoices showing how much Labour, the Scottish Tories, SNP and Liberal Democrats spent fighting the Holyrood election.

The three unionist parties almost doubled their combined spending relative to the 2016 election to £2.97million, with Labour more than tripling its outlay.

The SNP spent £1.47m, little more than in 2016 and a real terms cut after inflation.

The SNP added one seat in May, getting 64 MSPs, one short of an overall majority.

Labour lost two MSPs to get 22, the LibDems lost one to get four, and the Tories stayed level on 31. 

An SNP spokesperson said: “Labour and the Tories have worked hand in glove since the No campaign so this toxic alliance will come as no surprise to the people of Scotland.

“But despite joining forces and splashing thousands of pounds on a Tory spin doctor, Scottish Labour saw their worst ever election result at Holyrood and the SNP won by another historic landslide – securing the most votes of any party in the history of devolution.”

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “Eddie Barnes has known Anas Sarwar for many years and he and his team offered campaign advice.” 

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