One of the biggest mysteries in Scottish politics right now is how many members Scottish Labour actually has.
The party has repeatedly turned down opportunities to confirm or even offer guidance on the true size of its paid-up activist base despite mounting numbers of requests, and party insiders have been told to keep quiet on the matter.
BuzzFeed News understands that each campaign team in the party's recent leadership election had to sign an agreement to keep the membership number a secret, otherwise they would have been refused access to the membership list and unable to canvass support from party members.
Even newly-elected leader, Jim Murphy, seems uncertain about the size of the party he now leads. He estimated "about 20,000 or so" during an interview on STV's Scotland Tonight last week. However, estimates in the Scottish press tend to fall between 10,000 and 14,000.
When the party announced the results of its recent leadership election it refused to include the exact number of votes each candidate received from members, instead only providing percentages which gave no hint as to how many members took part. Every other major Scottish political party – including the Conservatives, SNP, Lib Dems and Greens – publishes the number of people who vote in every leadership election.
Focus on Scottish Labour's membership numbers has increased since the SNP surged ahead in the polls post-referendum. Activists play a key role in campaigning at election time and, while the SNP's membership has increased from 25,000 to 93,000 in recent months, Labour has stayed quiet.
In addition, the Scottish Greens now have upwards of 7,800 members, spurring speculation by one Scottish Labour member that the two parties may be of comparable size.
Asked to confirm the membership number, one Labour press officer said: "Our position on membership is clear – we don't do a running commentary on our membership figures. But it's gone up since the referendum and gone up even further since Jim Murphy was announced as leader."
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Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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