SNP under investigation for using parliament stamps for general election campaign

John Swinney, leader of the SNP (centre), with Humza Yousaf and Nicola Sturgeon, both former first ministers, at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh
John Swinney (centre), with former leaders Humza Yousaf and Nicola Sturgeon is at centre of another SNP controversy - Andrew Milligan/PA

The cash-strapped SNP is being investigated by Holyrood over claims that stamps earmarked for parliamentary business have been used for its general election campaign.

The Scottish Parliament confirmed it was investigating a complaint that SNP staff members had used the taxpayer-funded stamps “for campaign activities such as sending target letters to hard-to-reach addresses”.

The complaint included screenshots of a WhatsApp group, called “office manager chat”, which appeared to have a timer for messages to be automatically deleted.

In extracts of the conversation, disclosed by The Times, a staff member named Paul posted a message that read: “Guys, the new stamps. Can they be traced?”

A colleague who worked in the office of Nicola Sturgeon asked if he was referring to “who purchased them and what they’re being used for”. Paul responded: “Can they be traced back to who purchased them?”

A member of SNP deputy leader Keith Brown’s office said she had “asked Rab in the mailroom and he said no”. Another staff member said they were not aware of the stamps being traceable.

A colleague working for Shirley-Anne Somerville, the communities secretary, replied: “If they can then a few people may be up in front of [Holyrood’s ruling] corporate body…”

Although MSPs are allowed to spend up to £5,500 a year on postage and stationery, the Holyrood’s rules state that they “must be used only for parliamentary duties and must not be used for any other purpose, including party political purposes”.

Party finances

The SNP has struggled to raise money under the shadow of the ongoing police investigation into the party’s finances. Peter Murrell, the party’s former chief executive and Ms Sturgeon’s husband, has been charged with embezzlement.

In an email to Alison Johnstone, Holyrood’s presiding officer, the complainant said: “I am anonymously sharing a screenshot from the SNP office managers’ WhatsApp group chat due to my concerns that several MSPs are using stamps paid for by Scottish Parliament expenses to pass to UK Parliament election candidates for campaign activities such as sending target letters to hard-to-reach addresses.

“I’m concerned about this open discussion involving several members’ offices.”

A spokesman for the SNP Holyrood group said: “The parliamentary rules are crystal clear that materials, including stamps, can only be used for parliamentary purposes such as representing constituents and campaigning on their behalf.

“These exchanges, whilst obviously light-hearted, are being investigated as is appropriate and we would expect the offices of MSPs of all parties to cooperate with the parliamentary corporate body.”

A Scottish Parliament spokesman said: “We take the use of publicly-funded resources very seriously. Officials are investigating the matter to establish whether there has been any misuse of parliamentary resources.”