Lottery winners top up Scottish independence coffers with 3 million pound donation

LONDON Sun Apr 20, 2014 6:50am EDT

A National Lottery sign is seen over the entrance of the newsagents where EuroMillions lottery winners Colin and Chris Weir bought their winning ticket in Largs, Scotland July 16, 2011. REUTERS/David Moir

A National Lottery sign is seen over the entrance of the newsagents where EuroMillions lottery winners Colin and Chris Weir bought their winning ticket in Largs, Scotland July 16, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/David Moir

LONDON (Reuters) - A Scottish couple who won the lottery have donated at least 3 million pounds ($5 million) of their winnings to the campaign for an independent Scotland, making them Britain's biggest political donors, a newspaper reported on Sunday.

Colin Weir, a former cameraman, and his wife Chris, a former nurse, are from a seaside resort near the Scottish city of Glasgow and won 161,653,000 pounds ($271.72 million) in the Euromillions draw in 2011.

The Sunday Times, which is in the process of compiling its annual list of Britain's richest people, said its analysis had shown that the couple had given at least 3 million pounds to those campaigning for an independent Scotland ahead of a referendum on September 18.

Opinion polls suggest Scotland will vote to reject independence but that the contest is tightening a little and supporters of a breakaway have made some ground in recent months.

The British government minister responsible for Scotland said last month that nationalists had a huge "war chest" to fund their campaign and appeared more "hungry" for victory.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) and the "Yes Scotland" campaign had received the couple's donation, the Sunday Times reported, making the Weirs Britain's biggest political donors in the last 15 months.

By contrast, the newspaper said the campaign to keep Scotland part of the United Kingdom - "Better Together" - had garnered just 863,000 pounds ($1.45 million) from a coalition of eight people, headed by Ian Taylor, chief executive of Vitol, the energy trader.

The report was published as an ICM poll for the Scotland on Sunday newspaper put the pro-independence camp on 39 percent, unchanged from a month earlier, and the anti-independence camp on 42 percent, down four percentage points.

A separate Survation poll for the Sunday Post newspaper put the pro-independence side on 38 percent, up one percentage point on 10 days earlier, and the anti-independence side on 46 percent, one percentage point lower.

Scottish media reported on Sunday that several Scottish companies had quit Britain's Confederation of British Industry (CBI) after the business lobby registered with the Electoral Commission to campaign against independence. ($1 = 0.5949 British Pounds)

(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Angus MacSwan)