Finances revelation

SNP auditor’s exit not disclosed to NEC

Humza Yousaf

Humza Yousaf was not told about Johnston Carmichael’s resignation

The SNP was facing further accusations of a lack of transparency after it emerged that the resignation of the party’s auditors was kept secret from its own ruling council.

Accountancy firm Johnston Carmichael confirmed last weekend that it was no longer handling the party’s accounts.

It was revealed yesterday that it had taken the decision last October but this was not made known even to the party’s senior figures.

First Minister Humza Yousaf admitted he had not been told that the party was without an auditor until he was installed as the party’s leader on 27 March.

It has now been confirmed that Johnston Carmichael’s decision – based on a review of its client base – was not disclosed to the national executive committee (NEC), the party’s ruling body.

The party has not yet appointed a replacement auditor even though it is legally required to have its accounts independently audited and filed by 7 July.

The latest revelations have emerged amid a police investigation – Operation Branchform – into the whereabouts of £600,000 raised by supporters to fund a second independence referendum.

The party’s chief executive Peter Murrell resigned over misinformation given to the media about the party’s membership during the leadership election and last week was arrested and later released without charge in relation to the police inquiry.

Mr Yousaf told journalists in Leith that it was “extraordinary” that the party had failed to appoint a new set of auditors. It would now be “challenging” for it to file its 2022 accounts by the July deadline, he said.

It has been alleged that Nicola Sturgeon told a meeting of the party’s NEC in August 2021, a month after police began inquiries into the fundraising, that they should stop talking about the party’s financial affairs and had insisted “the finances are absolutely fine.”

Craig Hoy, the Scottish Conservative chairman, said: “It is an extraordinary revelation that the SNP’s auditors resigned as far back as October, when senior figures have spent months maintaining that there were no questions over the party’s finances.

“The fact that they have apparently not yet found replacements makes this business even murkier.”

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader, said: “The plot continues to thicken. That the SNP did not come clean about this for months stinks to high heavens. It is deeply worrying if they have been unable to replace the auditors in all this time.”

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