London meeting

Yousaf tells Prime Minister to ‘respect democracy’

Humza Yousaf wants the PM to grant Section 30 order

First Minister Humza Yousaf used his first face-to-face meeting with Rishi Sunak to demand that Scotland be allowed to hold a second independence referendum.

At the meeting in London he said the Prime Minister should respect the democratic wishes of the Scottish parliament and grant a Section 30 order that would enable a poll to go ahead.

He accused the UK government of waging attacks on devolution and is thought to have expressed concern at calls by Tory peer Lord Frost to “roll back” some currently devolved powers.

Mr Yousaf and Mr Sunak also discussed the cost-of-living crisis, rising energy bills and the delay in granting exemption for the deposit return scheme to go ahead.

The First Minister ‘s spokesperson said he was pleased the Prime Minister committed to fairness in how Scotch whisky industry duties are treated by the UK Government and that Mr Sunak “now needs to deliver on that”.

No 10 sources described Mr Yousaf’s call for greater respect for democracy as a “passing comment” and said that more time was spent discussing the controversial deposit return scheme, the plan to recycle bottles and cans which has been delayed.

The Scottish Government says it is awaiting exemption from the Internal Market Act in order to allow the scheme to go ahead. UK believe the scheme would turn the Scottish border into a trade barrier.

Pro-union campaigner Pamela Nash accused Mr Yousaf of paying lip service to issues like the cost-of-living crisis.

“But the mask slipped almost immediately after with his demands for another divisive vote on separation,” she said.

“Instead of stoking grievance and making demands the Scottish public don’t support, the First Minister should be getting his own house in order.

“And next time he’s representing the people of Scotland in such a meeting, he should be focusing only on the things that matter to them.”

Mr Yousaf arrived in Downing Street buoyed by new figures showing the SNP’s membership had risen by 738 to 74,889 since he became leader.

Among the long list of items on Mr Yousaf’s agenda is a the looming court battle between Holyrood and Westminster after Scottish Secretary Alister Jack blocked the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.

It is understood that Mr Sunak reiterated the UK Government’s commitment to supporting people with the cost of living and reiterated the need for all levels of government to work together on these issues.

SNP funds deadline

The SNP’s Westminster group could miss out on £1.2m in public funds if it fails to file its accounts by the 31 May deadline, its leader has admitted.

Accounts need to be submitted for the Westminster group by 31 May in order to receive “short money” – public funding for opposition parties to carry out their parliamentary work.

Stephen Flynn said the party was struggling to find new auditors after the previous firm, Johnston Carmichael, resigned in September following a review of its clients.

Mr Flynn said: “I thought it would be a relatively straight forward process to secure new auditors but that’s proven not to be the case.”

He said this was partly due to the fact that the financial year was nearing its end as well as the overall challenges in the party’s finances.

First Minister Humza Yousaf has said he only found out about the resignation of the previous auditors when he was elected at the end of last month. Mr Flynn said he only learned of the situation on 10 February.

This was despite the SNP’s former Westminster leader Ian Blackford last week saying that all relevant information was handed over to Mr Flynn during the changeover in December.

The party is subject to a police investigation into its finances which has seen its former chief executive Peter Murrell and treasurer Colin Beattie arrested earlier this month. Both were released without charge pending further inquiries.

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