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Social media spend

Scottish parties pour advertising into Facebook

All parties splashed the cash on Facebook

Scotland’s political parties spent more than £460,000 on Facebook advertising as they tried to persuade social media followers to back their election campaigns.

Labour spent just shy of £190,000 on social media adverts, more than three times more than the SNP, according to data from the social network’s Ad Library.

Figures obtained by The Herald show Scottish Labour spent £93,780 promoting its own Facebook page through 402 adverts, with a further £94,029 promoting the Anas Sarwar page with 75 adverts in the 90 days prior to the election on 6 May.

Posts included pleas from Gordon Brown, video endorsements from party members, and a repeated number of posts calling for the public to back Labour with their second vote.

Labour won 22 seats at the election, which equates to around £8,537 spent per seat.

The Scottish Tories spent £110,255 – the second highest – on 117 targeted ads. This equates to £3,556 for each of the party’s 31 seats won.


The SNP spent £54,334 on 98 ads on the party’s official page but only £4,965 on 12 posts on Nicola Sturgeon’s page. The total of £59,299, works out at about £927 for each of the 64 seats won.

Scottish Greens spent £40,165 on 244 ads, while the Scottish Liberal Democrats paid £42,262 for 474 posts.

Alba Party, led by former First Minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond, spent £25,218 on 28 promotions and secured no seats.

In the last parliament the parties had claimed during a debate on scrapping business rates for the newspapers that they were supporting the Scottish media. Despite also claiming to support the Scottish business community they did not spend any of their election budget on the Daily Business website, confirming that the Scottish government in particular was directing its promotions primarily through US-based social media companies.

Internet political campaign expert Dr Rhys Crilley, part of the Department of Politics and International Relations at University of Glasgow, told The Herald: “The fact that Labour spent way more than any other party on Facebook ads yet had their worst performance ever in the history of the Scottish parliament demonstrates that throwing money at online advertising isn’t an effective strategy if your policies and politicians don’t appeal to the Scottish public.

“The same can be said of Alba, who were confident that because they were pro-independence, they could take enough of the SNP’s list vote to get seats in Holyrood, but their social conservatism and uninspiring vision for independence has no appeal with voters.

“By spending £25,000 on Facebook ads and absolutely bombing in the polls, Alex Salmond basically poured his supporters money down Mark Zuckerberg’s toilet.”

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