Party crisis

Beattie resigns as SNP treasurer amid probe

Colin Beattie

Colin Beattie: arrested on Tuesday

Colin Beattie has “stepped back” from his roles as SNP party treasurer and member of a parliamentary committee while he is subject to a police inquiry.

The 71-year-old was arrested on Tuesday and later released without charge as police continue to investigate the SNP’s finances.

His departure has plunged the party into further confusion with growing doubts that it can file its accounts on time. It follows the resignation of its head of communications chief and its chief executive. The party is seeking a new auditor follow the departure of Johnston Carmichael last year.

In a statement issued just after 4.30pm, Mr Beattie said: “This afternoon I informed the party leader that I will be stepping back from my role as SNP National Treasurer with immediate effect.

“I have also informed the SNP Chief Whip at Holyrood that I will be stepping back from my role on the Public Audit Committee until the Police investigation has concluded.

“On a personal level, this decision has not been easy, but it is the right decision to avoid further distraction to the important work being led by Humza Yousaf to improve the SNP’s governance and transparency.

“I will continue to cooperate fully with Police Scotland’s enquiries and it would be inappropriate for me to comment any further on a live case.”

There is now growing concern within the party that former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon may be called by police to give evidence, adding to fears of further damage to the party;

She is not attending the Scottish parliament this week, with her spokeswoman claiming she did not want to overshadow policy announcements by Humza Yousaf, her successor.

First Minister Humza Yousaf, who earlier said Mr Beattie’s arrest was “clearly a very serious matter indeed”, has rejected calls to suspend Mr Beattie’s party membership along with Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell.

Anas Sawar, the Scottish Labour leader, said Mr Yousaf had shown a “lack of leadership”, adding that the First Minister “is the victim of events rather than [being] in charge of events in his own political party.

“He has been the leader for three weeks and I think is very clearly already a lame duck leader, a lame duck first minister of a dysfunctional government.”

Craig Hoy, the Scottish Conservative party chairman, said Mr Yousaf looked like “a rabbit in the headlights” who had failed to act decisively over the police investigation.

Mr Beattie, MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh since 2011, was questioned by detectives two weeks after Peter Murrell, the party’s former chief executive and husband of ex-SNP leader Ms Sturgeon, was held by police. Mr Murrell was later released without charge, pending further enquiries. 

The inquiry is focused on what happened to more than £600,000 in donations to the party’s independence campaign.

The Glasgow home of Ms Sturgeon and Mr Murrell, as well as party headquarters in Edinburgh, were searched.

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