Yousaf Says SNP Not Close to Bankruptcy as Party Ruling Body Orders Governance Review

The Scottish National Party’s (SNP) government body has agreed to carry out a governance and transparency review, Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf said on Saturday after an SNP National Executive Council (NEC) meeting.

But Yousaf denied claims that the ruling party is facing bankruptcy, telling reporters it’s “solvent” and “not close to bankruptcy.”

It comes after former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, former party chief executive Peter Murrell was arrested and released without charge in a police investigation into SNP’s finances. It has also emerged this week that the party’s auditor resigned months ago.

Speaking shortly after the NEC meeting, Yousaf said the meeting had been “positive” and there were no resignations, and that agreement was reached to hold a governance and transparency review.

Questioned about the review, he said the party will ensure it has “external input, particularly around the issues of financial oversight.”

“So, that may well be forensic accountants, it may well be some other means and method, but I think around the additional financial oversight, external input is really important,” he said.

Yousaf told reporters an interim report on the review is expected in June, with a full report due in autumn and the latter will be made public.

Accounting firm Johnston Carmichael last week confirmed reports that it had resigned as SNP’s auditor. Yousaf, who recently became SNP leader after Sturgeon’s resignation, told STV News on Tuesday that the auditor had quit around October last year, and that he had only found out the news after winning the leadership contest.

Commenting on auditors on Saturday, Yousaf said the party is “desperate” to find them.

“I’m not concerned about what [forensic auditors] might find. I’m concerned about the fact that, from my perspective, we could improve our governance and our transparency and I’m concerned about the fact that in six months we haven’t been able to find auditors,” he added.

Yousaf ‘Hopeful’ of Winning Potential By-Election

Yousaf was speaking at a campaign event in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency, where the party could face a by-election.

Epoch Times Photo
Scottish National Party (SNP) MP Margaret Ferrier speaks in the House of Commons, London, on Oct. 28, 2020. (Parliament TV)

Sitting MP Margaret Ferrier won the Rutherglen and Hamilton West seat for the SNP in 2019—but was later found to have damaged the reputation of the House of Commons and placed people at risk by taking part in a debate and travelling by train while suffering from COVID-19.

If she is barred from the Commons for 10 days or more, that could trigger a recall petition, which would result in a by-election in the constituency—although 10 percent of voters there would need to support this for it to go ahead.

Parliament is still to determine her punishment, but the Commons Standards Committee has already recommended the MP—who now sits as an independent—should be suspended for 30 days.

Yousaf said he is “hopeful” of winning if a by-election is held.

“I think it will be a challenging by-election for us. I’m not going to pretend otherwise in the context of Margaret’s actions, plus also last week has been difficult,” he said.

“But we should also go in confident. We’ve got a good ground operation here. We know where a lot of our support is in the constituency.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “Voters won’t forget Margaret Ferrier’s reckless rule-breaking, no matter how many SNP campervans are dispatched to Rutherglen.

“As Humza Yousaf desperately scrambles to hold his crumbling party together, Scottish Labour is offering real change.

“The SNP is chaotic and divided— the people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West deserve better.”

Police Investigation

Murrell, 58, who was the SNP’s chief executive until last month, was arrested on April 5 in connection with a long-running Police Scotland investigation into the spending of about £600,000 ($749,000), which was raised by the SNP to fund its campaigning for Scottish independence.

He was released from custody the same evening “pending further investigation.”

Police also searched “a number of addresses,” including Sturgeon and Murrell’s home in Glasgow.

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Nicola Sturgeon, then SNP leader and Scottish first minister, and husband Peter Murrell pose after casting their votes in the 2019 General Election at Broomhouse Park Community Hall, Glasgow, Scotland, on Dec. 12, 2019. (Andrew Milligan/PA Media)

The police investigation into the SNP’s finances began in July 2021, following complaints about how donations given to the party for use in a fresh independence referendum campaign had been used.

Two SNP MPs had quit the party’s National Executive Committee in May that year, citing a lack of transparency.

But the SNP leadership strongly denied claims the money raised for independence campaigning was diverted elsewhere.

Sturgeon, who was Scotland’s first minister and SNP leader, insisted she was “not concerned” about the party’s finances and that “every penny” of cash raised in online crowdfunding campaigns would be spent on the independence drive.

The party said it raised a total of £666,953 through referendum-related appeals between 2017 and 2020.

But questions were raised after its accounts showed it had just under £97,000 in the bank at the end of 2019, and total net assets of about £272,000.

It emerged last year that Murrell had loaned the SNP £107,620 in June 2021. An SNP spokesman said at the time that the loan was a “personal contribution made by the chief executive to assist with cash flow after the Holyrood election.”

Speaking on April 8 about her husband’s arrest, Sturgeon said she couldn’t comment on an ongoing investigation, and would fully cooperate with it.

PA Media contributed to this report.

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