Party leaks

Sturgeon pressed to quit SNP amid finances claim

Nicola Sturgeon: ‘be very careful’ (image from Sunday Mail video)

Nicola Sturgeon is coming under pressure to resign from the Scottish National Party amid claims that she blocked an investigation into its finances.

Email messages suggest the former party leader and First Minister rejected a proposal from a senior official to hire a fundraising manager who would have oversight of donations to the party.

The SNP insisted yesterday that it was solvent even though its treasurer told the ruling national executive on Saturday that the party was “having difficulty in balancing the books”.

Opposition politicians demanded that Ms Sturgeon and Peter Murrell — her husband and former SNP chief executive who has been arrested and released without charge as part of the investigation — should have their party memberships suspended during the police inquiry into “missing” funds.

The latest twists in the SNP’s financial woes follow its admission that 30,000 subscriptions have been cancelled and that it has failed to find an auditor after its previous one – Johnston Carmichael – resigned last September.

The Electoral Commission has warned that it might appoint its own auditor if the SNP misses a July deadline to file its latest accounts.

The emails published by the Sunday Mail, date from 2021 and outline the proposal from former treasurer Douglas Chapman to hire a fundraising manager as part of a review into transparency and governance. It is claimed that Ms Sturgeon rejected the idea.

A video from March 2021 has emerged that shows her claiming the SNP’s finances have “never been stronger”. This was three months before the police investigation began and in it she warns officials to be “very careful” about suggesting there are “any problems” with the accounts because of the effect it might have on donors.

“There are no reasons for people to be concerned about the party’s finances, and all of us need to be careful about not suggesting that there is,” she said.

Jackie Baillie, the deputy leader of Scottish Labour, said: “This bombshell revelation goes to show just how central Nicola Sturgeon was to the secrecy and culture of cover-up that festered within the SNP.

“Nicola Sturgeon has big questions to answer over her actions and Humza Yousaf [her successor] must consider suspending her party membership and that of her husband until the investigation has been concluded.”

Craig Hoy, the Scottish Conservative chairman, said: “For [Sturgeon] to claim that the party’s finances were in rude health — a matter of weeks before a police investigation was launched into the missing £600,000 and her chief executive husband lent his own employers a six-figure sum to help with ‘cash-flow’ issues — is frankly astonishing.”

The SNP said reports yesterday that the party was struggling financially were misleading.

It said: “The SNP’s national treasurer confirmed the party’s finances are in balance. As Scotland’s largest political party, we will fight any by-election with the intention to win. To suggest otherwise is farcical.”

Ian Blackford, the party’s former Westminster leader, told Times Radio: “Absolutely, categorically, the SNP is solvent. The party will be ready to meet all its liabilities and will certainly be ready to meet the challenge, if it comes, of a by-election in Rutherglen.”

He added: “When all is said and done we have still got over 70,000 members, members that are paying subscriptions, donations coming in, parliamentarians making contributions.”

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