Senior SNP staff speak to police 'multiple times' amid probe into party funds
SENIOR figures at SNP headquarters have been interviewed by police as part of the ongoing probe into the £600,000 raised by the party for independence-related campaigning.
At least one senior figure said they had been spoken to by investigating officers on “multiple” occasions, the Scotsman reported.
Douglas Chapman, the SNP MP who stepped down as party treasurer claiming he had not been given enough information to do the job, has also spoken to police.
Nicola Sturgeon, the former first minister, was asked by Sky News in late March if she’d had any contact with police over the investigation into what has become known as the "missing £600,000".
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She said: “Look, no. But I’m not going to comment, I wouldn’t comment on any ongoing police investigation and I’m not going to comment on this one."
Asked if it had put pressure on her or her husband, who resigned after a row of how media requests relating to membership numbers were handled, the Sturgeon said: “No, it hasn’t, no.”
She added that the situation had been "mishandled" but that it gave the party an opportunity to "reflect".
It is understood that the SNP believes cash from the £600,000 is not "missing" and was not used improperly as it was spent on campaign materials, and the SNP exists to further the cause of independence.
But according to recent reports, police working on “Operation Branchform” are probing high-value transactions including vehicle purchases.
After Chapman (above) quit as SNP treasurer in 2021, fellow SNP MP Joanna Cherry also quit her position on the NEC also citing concerns over transparency and scrutiny.
MSP Colin Beattie, who was brought in to fill the treasurer role, then released a statement saying: "Questions have been raised in recent months about funds raised in response to independence-related appeals since 2017 and whether all of the amounts raised will be spent directly on the campaign to win independence.
"As national treasurer, I give an assurance that this will be the case.”
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He went on to give an explanation of the party’s audit and financial reporting rules and insisted “that amounts equivalent to the sums raised will be spent directly on the campaign to win independence” and explain why this amount doesn’t currently show as a separate fund in the party’s accounts.
Beattie set out his explanation over ten points and underlined that the SNP’s accounts are subject to external audit and to review by the Electoral Commission. He noted that the size and purpose of each donation made was recorded by the party with a running total of “such expressions of wish” kept by the party’s headquarters.
“In due course, as money is utilised for such purpose, the balance of any such total is reduced until the obligation is expunged,” he said.
He added: “To be clear, by the end of 2020 a total of £666,953 had been raised through the independence-related appeals and coded as such through the internal process.”
If the cash is found to have been spent in ways that do not align with the assertions made when it was being crowdfunded, the party may face allegations of fraud.
An SNP spokesperson said: “We will cooperate fully with the police investigation and will make no further comment.”
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “A report which outlines enquiries already undertaken and seeks further instruction has been submitted to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS). We are working closely with COPFS as the investigation continues.”