Scottish Tories make bid to force statement on SNP finances

·3-min read

The Scottish Tories will on Wednesday push for a statement on the turmoil engulfing the SNP, claiming it is “in the public interest”.

Led by Douglas Ross, the party will use its Holyrood debating time to push for clarity on the financial situation within the ruling party.

In the past month, both its former chief executive, and Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell and its then treasurer Colin Beattie were arrested in connection with a police probe into the party’s finances, overshadowing the first month of First Minister Humza Yousaf’s time in office.

Both Mr Murrell and Mr Beattie were released without charge pending further investigation.

Humza Yousaf
The issue has overshadowed much of the First Minister’s time in office (Robert Perry/PA)

His early tenure has also been marred by news that the party has been without auditors for its accounts since October, with the Westminster group left with just weeks to file with the Electoral Commission or risk losing £1.2 million in funding from Westminster authorities to support their work.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Mr Ross said: “These questions are not going away for the First Minister and SNP leader, who recently had to step in as the SNP’s acting treasurer.

“He cannot stick his fingers in his ears and claim this is not a matter for his Government, as well as his party, especially if the SNP were to face bankruptcy or an imminent threat to their viability.

“This is clearly also a Government matter if the First Minister is compromised, his hands are tied, or if he has been kept in the dark about his party’s affairs, as was the case with the resignation of the SNP’s auditors.

“Right now, the real priorities of Scotland are being ignored by him and the SNP Government because they are distracted by the meltdown in the party.

“The unacceptable secrecy that has characterised the SNP in Government, on ferries, the Lochaber smelter, the Salmond affair and many others, is equally evident in its internal financial scandal, and it has to stop.

“The public must have confidence that Humza Yousaf is treating this investigation as seriously as possible and this debate gives him the opportunity to address these questions in full.”

A previous push for a statement to parliament was rejected by the First Minister, who said: “I don’t think Parliament is the place to do a statement on the party’s finances.”

As well as calling for the statement, Mr Ross’ party will push the Government to end the pre-release of statistics, “deliver a more transparent budget process”, publish ministerial expenses and travel quicker and improve scrutiny of breaches of the ministerial code.

The vote, however, is likely to fail thanks to anticipated support for the Government from the Scottish Greens.

The Tories will also hit out at the party for a lack of transparency over its membership figures, but SNP MSP Gordon MacDonald described the motion as a “shocking error in judgment”.

“It is the height of hypocrisy for the Scottish Tory Leader to be calling into question issues of transparency of political party membership whilst refusing to disclose his own,” he said.

“If Douglas Ross wants to salvage the smallest smidge of self respect then it’s time for him to release his own party membership figures.

“Nobody will be fooled by the Tory party’s cheap political games though, especially from a party who have some nerve to pontificate about transparency when their Prime Minister was all too eager to ban Scottish journalists from asking questions at their party conference over the weekend – and that’s before we even begin to scratch the surface of dodgy PPI deals and their own elusive membership figures.”

The SNP MSP was alluding to a wrangle between Number 10 aides and the Scottish press at the Scottish Tory conference in Glasgow on Friday over access to a press conference with the Prime Minister.