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Tuesday, July 27, 1999 Published at 18:53 GMT 19:53 UK

UK Politics

SNP could face Connery cash cut

Connery is thought to have paid the SNP £4,800 a month

Sean Connery's cash donations to the Scottish National Party could be outlawed under a new government bill on political party funding.

The James Bond actor is thought to swell the SNP's coffers by about £3,500 every month.

But if the Neill Bill, which is designed to make parties more accountable, goes through, donations from overseas benefactors could be banned.

The SNP's Nicola Sturgeon: "Sean Connery is not a tax exile."
Edinburgh-born Connery is the SNP's best known supporter and some reports have suggested he may have contributed as much as £4,800 to the party every month.

He does not have a home in Scotland any more, opting to live in Spain and Barbados instead.

The Bill seeks to name individuals donating over £5,000 and the amount donated.

The plans will also ban donations from anyone not eligible to register to vote in British elections.

Although that would not in itself stop Sean Connery's money reaching the SNP, it is thought some Labour MP's want to tighten the law to exclude his donations and those of Michael Ashcroft to the Conservatives.

[ image: Nicola Sturgeon:
Nicola Sturgeon: "He is not a tax exile"
Andrew Welsh, Vice-president of the SNP, said there was no problem with Mr Connery continuing to donate to the party.

He told Radio Scotland: "If you are registered to vote then you can donate. There is no problem with Sean Connery. He is actually a UK citizen and therefore he wouldn't be classed as a foreign donor."

SNP vice-convener Nicola Sturgeon said Labour would be misguided to attack people like Mr Connery.

"Sean Connery is somebody with a significant connection to this country," she said.

"He is not a tax exile because all money that he earns in this country is taxed in this country.

"In a conversation with Alex Salmond last year, Lord Neill said explicitly that his recommendations were not targeted at Sean Connery or people in his position."

But Labour backbenchers may push for the tightest possible controls - even suggesting that they must live in the UK for at least 90 days every year.

"There is broad consensus in support of the Neill recommendations," said Ms Sturgeon.

Legitimate sources

"But if Labour goes beyond them then I think many people will see them as being party political in trying to attack other parties' legitimate sources of funding while their funding, much of it from London, will be unaffected."

Home Secretary Jack Straw insists the new rules are "not directed at individuals", but Mr Ashcroft, who is based in Florida, said he feared they would be extended to cover so-called tax exiles.

Andrew Lansley, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Policy Renewal, said Mr Straw's proposals were clearly partisan.

He said Mr Ashcroft had businesses that traded and worked inside the UK and was a voter inside the UK.

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Vote 2001

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