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Wings Over Scotland

The unhappy few

Posted on June 27, 2013 by

Seasoned readers will recall that on occasion we’ve pondered the mystery that is the membership of the itself-enigmatic entity sometimes called “Scottish Labour”.


Establishing how many members the party actually has is a puzzle that has eluded the best and brightest in Scottish journalism for years, but thanks to a tip from an alert commenter Wings Over Scotland may be able to make the breakthrough today.

We use the word “party” above, but as hardcore nationalists never tire of pointing out on the internet, there’s no such political party as “Scottish Labour” registered with the Electoral Commission, which is the UK body of record for these matters. What there is, however, is an “Accounting Unit” (AU) of that name.

AUs are how the Commission keeps track of the finances of various internal divisions of parties, and it helpfully publishes details of their accounts on its website. The most recent accounts filed by “Scottish Labour” are for 2011 (published in August 2012), and they reveal that the branch’s income from “Membership” was £106,644.


By way of comparison, the SNP’s membership income for the same year was £449,135. If the world was a better place we could simply extrapolate rough figures by using the SNP’s claimed membership figure (which was 20,000 at the end of 2011) and dividing by the cost, but inconveniently for our purposes the Nats have no fixed membership fee, instead choosing to solicit monthly donations at whatever level the member can spare. As a guide though, the £449,000 figure would produce an average annual contribution of just over £22 per member.

Labour, by contrast, does have set fees.


Those, of course, are only a limited amount of help, because we don’t know the demographics of the party’s membership. (And we’re also not sure if the introductory £1 rate was available in 2011 – we seem to vaguely recall it appearing in 2012. But for the purposes of this piece we’ll assume it was.)

Anecdotally we’d assume the party to be quite older-people-heavy, but for something a little more scientific let’s look at the picture for Scotland as a whole.


By happy chance the last census also recorded statistics for 2011, with the results above. Annoyingly it doesn’t chart percentages, but by the magic of science we can deduce that the maroon bars above represent, from left to right, roughly 17%, 19%, 20%, 21%, 15% and 8% of the population.

Labour’s lowest age for membership is 14, so since we’re only making rough-and-ready estimates here, let’s discount the entire 0-15 group as ineligible. (We can compensate by extending the eligibility for its Young Persons Rate from the actual 27 to 29, to fit the second group.)

That gives us a notional figure of 19% of members paying either £1 or £12. As students get the £1 rate as well as under-20s, let’s split the numbers 50/50 and say that that 19% is paying £6.50 a year on average.

That leaves the other 81% of the party’s membership as full-price members, paying either £15, £22.50 or £44.50 per annum. The “Reduced” rate has quite vague criteria (what’s “low income”?), so let’s assume it encompasses quite a few people. In fact, let’s just spread the burden equally and assume that a third are on the Local Join tariff, a third on Reduced and only a third paying the Full rate. That comes out at an average of fractionally over £27.33 a head.

So we’ve got 19% of members paying £6.50 and 81% paying £27.33. The maths is starting to make our head hurt, so let’s round those off to 20% and 80% respectively to make the sums a bit easier. If we do that, we finally end up with an average income for Scottish Labour of £23.16 per member, pleasingly close to the SNP’s £22 figure.

All that remains, then, is to divide the “Scottish Labour” AU’s total membership income into that number to get a rough headcount. And on that highly-speculative, illustrative, just-for-gits-and-shiggles data, we find out that Labour’s Scottish branch probably has somewhere in the region of 4,605 members.

Just in case we haven’t issued enough disclaimers yet, that’s a stab in the dark based on some major guesswork, although we’ve tended towards the generous in our guessing. But the methodology seems pretty sound, and it’s hard to see how you could possibly manipulate the few available solid figures to get a number dramatically higher, unless you assume the vast bulk of the “party” comprises teenagers – a scenario which doesn’t seem to be borne out by footage of its conferences.

(It’s backed up by the Electoral Commission’s data on UK Labour – which DOES list its number of members and reveals a “revenue per member” figure of £26.93, not too far out of line with our estimate for the Scottish branch – and by the fact that if Scottish Labour is generating less than a quarter of the money from its members that the SNP is, it seems common-sense logic to suggest that it might have roughly a quarter the membership, which would give us a figure below 5,000.)

It would also explain why Labour’s Scottish branch is so shy of coming out and actually revealing its membership stats. If we’re wrong, we invite them to correct us.

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82 to “The unhappy few”

  1. abigdoob says:

    But they claim to be Scotlands largest political party, so you must be wrong…

  2. Training Day says:

    Good work, Stu.  Labour’s solution to their membership problems will be to send all their dronebots to Better Together launch events where their numbers will be instantly quintupled. 

  3. handclapping says:

    Major flaw is we cant be certain that all of the sub goes to SLAB. If it is split 50:50 with HQ then the membership doubles!

  4. Andy-B says:

    As Alex Salmond, said today on Politics Scotland, to Johan Lamont, “Ma gangs bigger than your gang”…after something for nothing Lamont, said that the SNP Government were no more than a gang.

  5. Iain More says:

    You made a calculation based on accounts submitted from a Brit Labour Party that has extreme difficulty with accounting. I suspect that the number of 4,605 members for such a Party might even be an exaggeration. Especially as anybody on a low income these days would be off thier trolley to give money to the Brit Red Tory Party! 

  6. Donald Kerr says:

    How come out of work joiners get a good deal from Labour? What about the brickies? 😉

  7. Andy-B says:

    Just had to add this, off topic though for the umpteenth time on Radio Scotland news 4.00pm theyve repeatedly aired the death of a rare bird which flew into a wind turbine, and, the poor emotional state it has left twitchers (who saw its demise) in, could it be the BBC are against windfarms?, or am I just being paranoid about the BBC, are their no bastions of the SNP Government that the BBC wont attack, apparently not.

  8. Jiggsbro says:

    For political parties, membership as such is largely irrelevant. All that matters is whether people go out and vote for them. And on that measure, Scottish Labour is still the largest…oh. As you were. All that really matters is having incompetent people in leadership positions and on that score, Scottish Labour is right up there with the ConDem coalition. The SNP, with their easy competency, are an irrelevance. Losing members is the new winning.

  9. MajorBloodnok says:

    @Donald Kerr
    And there’s the tilers, although for them it’s all over bar the grouting.

  10. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “As Alex Salmond, said today on Politics Scotland, to Johan Lamont, “Ma gangs bigger than your gang””

    Is that an actual thing that happened?

  11. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Major flaw is we cant be certain that all of the sub goes to SLAB. If it is split 50:50 with HQ then the membership doubles!”

    Wouldn’t sending that to BritLab come under “expenditure”?

  12. handclapping says:

    No, all subs go to HQ and only the proportion goes to SLAB is OK by the EC. I think thats how the SNP do it with their branches/AUs.

  13. proudscot says:

    Aye Andy-B, wee Johann is such an asset to our parliament, with her stuttering attempts to read out her scripted diatribes, interspersed with gratuitous insults usually aimed at the First Minister. Alternative First Ministerial material she definitely is NOT.

  14. Cath says:

    It’s also hard to know, after the Falkirk thing, how many members are “real” and how many are parachuted in by unions or other interest groups for the purposes of voting.

  15. Memphisto says:

    If you assume the average membership fee is the same for both SNP and Labour
    106,644/449,135*20,000 =4748 members
    It would be interesting to see a comparison over time, if those figures are available

  16. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “No, all subs go to HQ and only the proportion goes to SLAB is OK by the EC. I think thats how the SNP do it with their branches/AUs.”

    And have we any idea how much British Labour creams off? If not it’s a bit of a moot point. (And even if we doubled the figures they’d still be pretty grim, well below 10K.)

  17. Tim says:

    Good work Rev.  I wonder though how union membership fees are included in membership fees (if at all).
    According to the Wayback Machine, fees were not too different:

    £1 14-19/Student Available to joiners under 20 or in full-time education.
    £1 Young Persons Rate £1 annually who are aged 20 -27. Please note this will be increased to £12 annually (£1 per month) on Jan 1st 2012.
    £1 Serving or Former Member of the British Armed Forces Rate Introductory first year offer.
    £15 Local Join Rate A special introductory rate available to members recruited locally (£1.25 per month).
    £41 Standard rate (£3.42 per month)
    £20.50 Reduced rate Available to joiners who are currently out of work, work fewer than 16 hours per week, who are also members of an affiliated Trade Union or are on a low income (£1.71 per month)


  18. Angus McPhee says:

    Interesting that they feel the need to point out that £12 annually is £1 per month. This may be related to their confident mathematics.

  19. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “According to the Wayback Machine, fees were not too different:”

    Doh, good point – I should have used the 2011 fees. Ach well, it’s such a loose calculation it doesn’t make much difference, but I might try re-doing all the figures later using those ones this evening anyway.

  20. handclapping says:

    No idea what the proportions are but from what I’ve heard of the resignations in our local party (deepest Fife), I’d say SLAB’ll be around 8000 currently.

  21. Gordon Hay says:

    13,100 leadership ballot papers sent out to 4,600 members sounds about right, given that most have two, three or even four votes (ordinary member, constituency member, union member and MP/MSP, as I recall).

  22. Max says:

    The Scottish Tories claim a membership total of 11,000.
    The Scottish Lib Dems have a membership of 3,000.
    The Scottish Greens have a membership of 1,200

  23. Juteman says:

    Like those car insurance adverts on the telly, maybe Labour give 12 months membership for the price on 9?
    If so, the real membership figure is only 2/3 of your original total.

  24. Big Jock says:

    I think you are being generous with that figure.LOL
    Who knows but one thing is for sure they have about a quarter the SNP membership.

  25. Andy-B says:

    My gangs bigger than your gang
    Yes Rev…. it actually did happen during FM’s questions.

  26. Inbhir Anainn says:

    It happened at today’s FMQs:

    Johann Lamont: The First Minister is asking us to trust an economic vision that looks more like an hallucination. However, we know that in private the First Minister and his colleagues know that a separate Scotland would have huge economic problems. In private, they even question the affordability of pensions, but they think that in public they can treat the people of Scotland like mugs. [Interruption.] Do they know that in the real world everybody understands that there is a real challenge and that we need to protect ordinary people? The First Minister and his gang behind him—

    The First Minister (Alex Salmond):

    Finally, I note that Johann Lamont thinks that the folk behind me are a “gang”. I point out to her that, after the Aberdeen Donside by-election, this gang is bigger than her gang.

  27. handclapping says:

    The Scottish Tories claim a membership total of 11,000.
    Bit embarrasing if SLAB are only the 3rd largest party 🙂

  28. Andy-B says:

     @Proudscot…Lamont an assest
    She sure is, with all her parties fantastic policies just waiting in the wings to be introduced…Errm! I just cant think of one right now though.

  29. Luigi says:

    The Scottish Tories claim a membership total of 11,000.
    Aye, with an average age of 87 years.

  30. Murray McCallum says:

    The 2011 accounts submitted by the GB Labour (Central) Party show membership fee income of £5,205,000.  In the administrative info in the published accounts they note 193,300 members (Page 4) as at 31/12/2011. Unfortunately the SLAB equivalent accounts do not give this piece of information.
    193,300 members gives an average UK membership fee of £26.93 for 2011.  The Rev’s estimate above for SLAB is therefore reasonable.
    I suspect Scotland has a disproportionately high number of Labour voters compared to members?

  31. brianh says:

    rare birds murdered by wind turbines, more shale gas than we thought, not enough electricity stability, all bbc headlines today. It all comes together nicely doesn’t it.

  32. Ah, but Rev, you forgot the 26,000 ‘postal’ members ;o)

  33. Andy-B says:

    It sure does, like pieces of a jigsaw, the one big piece you forgot to mention was the ONS Office of National Statistics, said today and it was also widely reported on the BBC, that the UK didnt really go into a double-dip recession…Phew!….so everythings fine them.

  34. dundee bloke says:

    abigdoob says:
    27 June, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    But they claim to be Scotlands largest political party, so you mustbe wrong…Drop the word political you might be close

  35. Jim Mitchell says:

    And don’t forget all those dead folk that unionist parties manage to get on the electoral rolls when around referendum time, they might be recruiting them as well.
    BTW, did i just dream it or did the LEADER of the Labour party in Scotland actually fly to London to discuss the ongoing crisis in Falkirk.
    If i didn’t dream it, then i suppose that was Johann going to tell THEM (The British Labour Party) what SHE was going to do, i mean what else could it be?

  36. colin mccartney says:

    All of Scottish Labours membership have just moved to the “Falkirk” area. I wonder why?

  37. Steven Syme says:

    I believe that the current Labour membership in Scotland is about 12k. Thats the number we hear within Labourforindy anyhow…4700 feels a bit low to be honest though your maths are sound. I think there’s more students in the list, though whether Labour count TU members as being ‘in the membership’…I dont know?

  38. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Steven: that’d be about £8 a member pa, which seems awfy low, no?

  39. Bugger (the Panda) says:

    Steven Syme says:
    27 June, 2013 at 6:41 pm
    Steve, dpn’t forget that the members of Labour Social Clubs probably are classed as members, even if they are only there for the beer.

  40. Murray McCallum says:

    Steven Syme says:
    “I believe that the current Labour membership in Scotland is about 12k.”
    I think 12,000 seems a reasonable top range figure.  Using a population (say 8.5%) pro rata Scottish share of 193,300 UK Labour Party members gives 16,403.  I suspect this flatters SLAB.
    I reckon the average membership fee paid in Scotland is significantly lower (maybe as much as half) than UK.  This is my hunch.  No factual basis as yet.
    From UK Labour point of view while Scottish votes are welcome, they do not necessarily win Westminster elections.  Westminster elections are aided by finance to run big campaigns – based on money alone SLAB appears to provide little substance.  The South is what “matters” to them I think.

  41. Juteman says:

    This question might be o/t and stupid, but does anyone know the actual rules about what can be written on voting slips?
    Can you print anything?
    Could I register the name ‘The Scottish Labour Party’, and stop others from using it?

  42. Linda's back says:

    No you can’t as the electoral commission would not accept such a registration.
    Falkirk which is one of Labour’s more active areas has only 200 members which being generous would give them 14,000 members MAX.

  43. Bugger (the Panda) says:

    Linda’s back says:
    27 June, 2013 at 7:21 pm


    Somebody bought the Scottish Labour domain in 2004ish
    Anybody know if he is acting for Labour or just a freebooting Nat?
    Registered through:, LLC (
    Created on: 25-Oct-04
    Expires on: 25-Oct-13
    Last Updated on: 26-Oct-12

    thomas butler
    31 milverton avenue
    bearsden, east dunbartonshire g614be
    United Kingdom

    Administrative Contact:
    butler, thomas
    31 milverton avenue
    bearsden, east dunbartonshire g614be
    United Kingdom

  44. handclapping says:

    AFAIR the largest SLAB branch was c.600 somewhere in S.Glasgow and the English who came up to help were quite put out as their constiuency branches were of the order of 1000. Some people may have left when they converted from Westminster to Holyrood constituencies but if they averaged 250 per Westminster seat that they held/hold that is 10,000 max and there have been a lot of resignations since. I still think 8,000 is par for SLAB right now

  45. Rod Mac says:

    The death rate in Scotland is around 50,000 each year, with the average age in Tory party being high in a mattter of years we might have more pandas than Tory members too

  46. Juteman says:

    But surely I could (theoretically) start a party called The Scottish Labour Party’, as there isn’t one already?

    Can we not have a Scottish Labour Party in an independent Scotland then?

  47. Jamie Arriere says:

    Steven Syme says:
    27 June, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    I believe that the current Labour membership in Scotland is about 12k.
    Maybe some of their membership get ‘something for nothing’…..

  48. Rod Mac says:

    Anyone that is member of their social clubs is counted as a member.
    How depressing must it be to drink in a Labour club , enough to drive you to drink.
    no wonder the Major has a wee problem having to sup an ale with a load of Grahamskis

  49. handclapping says:

    With 7000 of their members only in for a drink no wonder they were against a minimum price for alcohol!

  50. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:


  51. Bugger (the Panda) says:

    Wotsa tag?
    Honestly, tell me what not to do and why?

    Is it the http thingy?

  52. scottish_skier says:

    It’s if you copy and paste someone’s whole post directly into your own then you inadvertently use the <shite> tag.
    Like this:

    Steven Syme says:27 June, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    Which the Rev hates as it’s against his religion.

    If you copy and paste into e.g. notepad, then into your post (so now as plain text) it looks like this:

    Steven Syme says:
    27 June, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    Which is perfectly acceptable.

    <fear></fear> tags are fine. If you’re posting from a pro-union perspective of course.

  53. sneddon says:

    @Rod Mac
    They replicate you know, even tho’ the number is diminishing, they still do hatch  in the border areas generally as the climate often suits them down there.  🙂

  54. Bugger (the Panda) says:

    Getting there thanks
    but what does doing the other mean with respect his “religion”
    I am an atheist.

  55. scottish_skier says:

    but what does doing the other mean with respect his “religion”

    Similar to putting coke in a malt whisky.

  56. waden says:

    Unite threatens Labour with legal action over Falkirk row
    “excluded all members who joined the CLP”

  57. Bugger (the Panda) says:

    Ah, a purist.
    Still dinnae understand but anyway, feck it.
    I’ll eliminate all links as a prophylactic. I believe you can get them in a whisky and coke flavour.

  58. Murray McCallum says:

    Reading the various newspaper articles on the elusive Scottish Labour Party membership numbers I suspect the 12,000 top range figure was maybe valid 2-3 years ago (13,135 ballot papers Sep’10 but not 1 ballot paper to 1 member – so 12k sounds reasonable back then).
    The silence since clearly means membership has fallen embarrassingly low. The Rev’s figure is looking increasingly solid.
    Sounds like a question for the 2014 Truth Team?

  59. Erchie says:

    Don’t forget soe folk are Labour members without realising it, due to Union membership

  60. Murray McCallum says:

    The analysis is of Scottish Labour members – Party members who have paid a subscription as set out in the Labour Party rule book (chapter 2).
    I think individual Trade Union members would not automatically be classified as Labour Party members.  Trade Unions who are affiliated to the Labour Party are members of TULO. The Labour Party 2011 accounts show £8,037K in “Affiliations” income which is now doubt down to affiliated Union contributions.  This is quite separate from (lower) membership fee income.

  61. Andy says:

    but which of the labour party members hold
    the list of labour voters – who holds the thing together

  62. john king says:

    “How come out of work joiners get a good deal from Labour? What about the brickies? ”
    ah wis wunderin that an aw, whits sae friggin great aboout joiners? 🙂

  63. john king says:

    “Interesting that they feel the need to point out that £12 annually is £1 per month. This may be related to their confident mathematics.”
    Alistair Darling did that on his abacus for them (for free) 🙂


  64. john king says:

    “The Scottish Tories claim a membership total of 11,000.”
    aye right?
    who does their accountin?
    messrs A Darling and co, accountants?
    11,000 in Britain maybe
    they don’t have 11,000 VOTERS in Scotland for christ sake 

    when did they stop using a telephone box in Maybole for thier AGM’s? now using the scout hall instead ?

  65. john king says:

    “Could I register the name ‘The Scottish Labour Party’, and stop others from using it?”
    Go on I dare you 🙂

  66. john king says:

    “rare birds murdered by wind turbines, more shale gas than we thought, not enough electricity stability, all bbc headlines today. It all comes together nicely doesn’t it.”
    Yea what was that one all about?
    the story about the rare bird karate chopped by a wind turbine, didnt see that one (apparently neither did the bird)
    sounds like a unionist urban myth to me
    either that or the bird is just too dippit which might explain why its rare
    on the other hand being serious we have to talk about windows
    because the amount of stupid birds that crash into my windows like kamakaze pilots is getting to levels that suggest the starlings in my garden will reach extinction levels by 2095 this is a national concern and could lead the tories to introduce something like a window tax (to save the wee birdies you understand) 
    omg what have I just said 

  67. john king says:

    On that subject of birds and windfarms, 
    I kid you not this is true,
    a windfarm was built next to the dual carriage way at the Lochgelly bypass a couple of years ago and last autumn I was mesmerized (not a good thing when your driving) by a flight of geese who deviated their flight path on their way (north? who knew)  to fly THROUGH the slowly rotating blades of a turbine, it appears the local bird life see these wind farms as an amusement park, I swear after rolling my window down I heard some of them going weeeeeee 🙂

  68. Stevie says:

    Of course, working on the premise that wherever Labour campaigns the dead will vote; one can probably apply that to their membership who probably still vote at branch meetings for candidates.  The dead voting at branch meetings would explain the general mouldy mustiness of that tired old mob.

  69. Stevie says:

    It would be nice to have a comments like button and a reply facility on comments

  70. Desimond says:

    Patience Grasshopper…come 2014 YES vote you will soon be able to find out exactly how many members a stand alone SCOTTISH LABOUR PARTY has, They will have to break away from London then, they will wont they?

  71. John Lyons says:

    Of those 4605 how many are in the Labour for independence group? Okay, the facebook page has about 3000 likes, but not all of them will be actual members, but even if there’s 500 of them that’s 10% of lamont membership and she’s still ignoring them. That number will only grow.

  72. The Labour division use that famous Australian saying,”If you don’t know! use bullshit loud and long that’ll confuse them all”

  73. Patrick Roden says:

    OT, but good to see another person, (This time from Dunfermline) signing up to the Herald forum, to tell everyone that due to OBE’s constant negativity, he has decided to convert from unconvinced  to definite Yes.
    As was mentioned on another thread recently, their is a slow but definite change to Yes, as more and more people are being put off by the negative smear and fear campaign of BT.
    If you want to have a look, the comment is on the herald article about how the Yes campaign will use the latest statistics showing a 25% hike in the cost of living.

  74. Patrick Roden says:

    Interesting read in the Herald letters page.
    A guy is complaining about London’s interference in Falkirk and mentions that he knows that members sign up family members whenever a vote of some sort is imminent (in order to influence the outcome)  
    He mentioned a time in Govan when he personally saw 17 membership applications all written by the same person, just needing signature’s (he says)
    What a shower of shysters the Labour party are.

  75. A2 says:

    “and it’s hard to see how you could possibly manipulate the few available solid figures to get a number dramatically higher”

    You could borrow BT’s calculator.

  76. Ken500 says:

    The SNP are funded by their members. That is why they can do such good things for Scotland. Labour are funded by Banks (Co opie etc) and Unions, and are still in debt. The Labour/Unionisrs are troughing parasites, who are out to line their pockets along with tax evading millionaires at Westminster, who have destroyed Britain. Illegal wars against International Law, illegal tax evasion. Who would join the Labour/Unionist Party or any Unionist Party in Scotland.They have lied and cheated and abused Scotland forever. Secret reports, misuse of public monies, breaking International Law, killing innocent people and causing poverty and deprivation in Britain and worldwide. Lying, greedy, useless, Hypocrites.

    The Russians saved the Mountbatten fortunes. Parasites.

  77. Ken500 says:

    The Labour Mafia, the feeble Fifty have tentacles throughout Scottish society. Squeezing the life out of Scotland. They have depopulated Scotland. A fifth column working to destroy Scotland. The Monkey in it’s back. The McCrone Report kept secret for thirty years. After Independence
    Scotland will bloom and flourish. After the Iraq War who would remain a member of the Labour/Unionist Party. After Thatcher who would join the Unionist Tory Party. After Nick Clegg who would join the LibDem/Unionists. No one. Non entities.

  78. Rod Robertson says:

    Since Friday morning SNP have signed up 5,000 new members.
    Seems Labour plan of winning indy referendum and smashing SNP has only half worked.

  79. Claire says:

    The number of ballot papers sent out for the SLAB leader election wouldn’t tell you much. I got one because my union is affiliated, with a recommendation to vote for Lamont & Sarwar. Didn’t actually use it as it didn’t seem right for someone to get a vote who does not support Labour, but might explain the high figure for ballot papers.

  80. Eddie phillips says:

    I think this may be close. I recall that the Inverclyde Constituency recorded less than 100 members at one time. Others of course ard in the hundreds and the likes of East Lothian with Labour Clubs (drinking dens where membership is compulsory)will have many more. So the assertion made allegedly by Anas Sarwar thar Scottish Labour has 3 times the SNP numbers is, quite frankly utter pish.

  81. ClanDonald says:

    We’ll find out in May when Ed gets booted out and they have to elect a new leader. For Ed’s election in 2010 they sent out about 12,000 ballot papers to members in Scotland.

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