No Borders, a self-proclaimed ‘peoples campaign’ against independence, launched today with an ambitious fundraising target of £500,000.
But far from the grassroots campaign groups established to campaign for a Yes vote, No Borders is the brainchild of Malcolm Offord, a millionaire investor and fund manager who has previously donated substantial sums to the Conservative Party.
And, perhaps unsurprisingly, No Borders begin life with a warchest of £140,000 – despite the group having absolutely no profile prior to their launch (The group had only 457 Facebook ‘likes’ and 121 Twitter followers at the time of publication).
Indeed, given Offord’s track record as a prolific donor to the Conservative Party, reportedly donating over £100,000 to the party in recent years, including £2500 directly to Michael Gove, No Borders begins to look less and less like a grassroots campaign and more like the astroturfed efforts of a business elite.
As well as his donations to the Conservative Party, Offord is an advisory board member to the right-wing think-tank established by work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan-Smith, the Centre for Social Justice. The contents of ‘Bankrupt Britain’, a paper written by Offord and published on the ConservativeHome website, suggest Offord would back Duncan-Smith’s vindictive and humiliating welfare reforms that have pushed tens of thousands of Scots to beg for handouts at foodbanks.
The paper ‘Bankrupt Britain’, written in 2009, lays out a blueprint for austerity – calling on public spending to be reduced by a third, and claims that the entrenchment of poverty in Britain is due to the high amount of unmarried mothers.
Despicably, he also quotes the tragic case of Shannon Matthews as an argument against ‘the bloated benefits system’.
It’s unsurprising that a right-wing millionaire would oppose independence – particularly considering the blow it would give to the party he supports, and ridding Scotland of hated Tory policies like the Bedroom Tax forever.
In stark contrast to the many thousands of small donors who have crowdfunded for grassroots groups on the Yes side, No Borders have begun life with a healthy bank balance and ambition for even more. There are questions to be raised over the legality of this, however.
As a registered participant in the referendum, No Borders will be restricted to spending a maximum of £150,000 in the ‘regulated referendum period’, which runs for the 16 weeks immediately prior to the vote on September 18th. With the organisation having a declared donations target of £500,000, it appears that No Borders are budgeting to raise and spend £350,000 in just the next 4 weeks.
This £350,000, if raised, can’t simply be pre-spent for the campaign itself – for example, it’s not permitted to simply bulk buy leaflets or other materials that would be delivered during the regulated campaign period. It’s hard to imagine how an organisation which has only just launched could possibly seek to spend such a vast sum of money in the next few weeks. The fundraising target, then, suggests that No Borders don’t understand campaign rules – although this would be curious considering Mr. Offord’s political connections.
After the embarassing retreat of the CBI, No Borders are currently the only No group to register as a referendum participant other than the official Better Together campaign – in contrast, a wide range of people-led Yes groups have registered and plan to register in the future, including National Collective, Radical Independence and Women for Independence amongst others.
Possibly the most exciting aspect of the independence debate so far has been the extent to which it has reinvigorated popular democracy in our corner of the world. The town-hall meeting is back with a vengeance, activists mobilise across the country on a daily basis, and workplaces and living rooms are abuzz with a debate which is well-informed, passionate and creative. We are debating the future of our country in a way that is heartfelt yet inclusive, idealistic yet sensible, and serious, yet with an ability not to take ourselves too seriously. This is what democracy looks like.
This summer will see the greatest explosion of democratic activity ever seen in Scotland. The country will be abuzz with possibility, creativity, and hope for a fairer, more equal and more democratic future.
Those behind No Borders are entitled as anybody else to have their say on Scotland’s future – but we should remember what their motivations are. The union works very well indeed for the likes of Malcolm Offord, at the top of our society. It doesn’t work so well for the ordinary people who’re harmed by the governing party that he financially supports. Independence can change this; or as the Radical Independence Campaign say, Britain is for the rich – Scotland can be ours.
This summer we plan to take our movement directly into Scotland’s communities. No Borders might be able to throw money at the campaign, but we do not have the financial connections of someone like Mr. Offord, and neither can we count on receiving the same media coverage.
We depend on the donations and goodwill of ordinary people like you. Our summer campaign can be brilliant – but we need your help.
National Collective have previously written of how the referendum has become a battle between the elite and a grassroots movement of the people.
Make sure that the grassroots movement is the one that wins.
Image from VancityAllie.com