Accounts published

Auditor notes poor book-keeping as SNP posts deficit

Problems mount for SNP leader Humza Yousaf (pic: Terry Murden)

The SNP’s new leadership was shown the scale of rebuilding the party when newly-published accounts show a deficit of more than £800,000 last year.

It is the second biggest loss in the party’s history and the largest in a year when no parliamentary election took place.

The party has now posted a deficit in six of the last 10 years. The largest was in 2016, when its expenditure outstripped its income by £1.3m, in part due to fighting a Holyrood election campaign.

Auditor AMS Accountants Group noted poor book-keeping by the party which continues to be subject to a police investigation over its finances.

“During the course of our audit we identified that original documentation in respect to some items of cash and cheques received for the current and prior year, relating to membership, donations and raffle income, were not kept by the party,” said AMS.

The Manchester-based firm was appointed auditor by Humza Yousaf weeks after being elected leader when it was revealed the SNP had been without one for several months following the resignation of Johnston Carmichael.

The loss for the year to the end of December followed a fall in membership from the 104,000 two years ago to 72,000 in March. The number of paid-up members was the source of Mr Foote’s resignation as head of communications. Yesterday he was named the party’s new CEO. The accounts show he will be on a salary of £90,000.

While the accounts said membership had risen to about 74,000 in June, income driven by members fell from £2,516,854 in 2021 to £2,286,944 in 2022.

Reported donations were down from £695,351 to £368,538, with the party recording a total loss of £804,278.

Electoral Commission figures show the Conservatives recorded showed a bigger loss – £2.38m – while the Scottish Conservatives do not publish accounts.

Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell
Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell were questioned and released

Scottish Labour had a loss of £123,787 while the Scottish Liberal Democrats had a surplus of about £291,287. The Scottish Greens had a deficit of £28,191 while Alba reported a surplus of £17,425.

SNP treasurer Stuart McDonald blamed the cost of living crisis for the drop in party membership, and said it was important to “return the party to surplus in 2023 as we build towards the next general election.”

He added: “Like every membership organisation today, we face challenges and uncertainty in the face of rising inflation and the cost of living crisis which impacts on our members.”

A Police Scotland investigation into SNP finances and funding, codenamed Operation Branchform, is ongoing.

Former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, her husband and ex-party chief executive Peter Murrell and former treasurer Colin Beattie have all been arrested as part of the inquiry before later being released without charge pending further investigations.

Mr Murrell gave the party a loan of £107,620 in June 2021 – half of which was repaid by October of that year.

The SNP accounts show Mr Murrell is still owed £60,000.

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