Police in Scotland are investigating whether Nicola Sturgeon deliberately shut down scrutiny of the SNP’s finances as part of their ongoing inquiry into £600,000 of missing donations.
The crisis has already led to the arrest of her husband, Peter Murrell, the former chief executive of the party, and sent the once all-powerful Scottish nationalists into an existential tail-spin.
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A leaked video from March 2021 also released by the Sunday Mail appears to show Sturgeon playing down concerns about the party’s finances.
Believed to “have been recorded without her knowledge”, the footage from a meeting of the National Executive Committee shows Sturgeon warning officials to be “very careful” about suggesting there are “any problems” with the party’s accounts because of the effect it might have on donors, said the BBC.
Sturgeon claimed the SNP’s finances had “never been stronger” after three members resigned from the finance and audit committee. One, Allison Graham, listed a “catalogue of concerns over governance and transparency”, said the Sunday Mail.
The online meeting took place just days before the first complaint was made to police about SNP finances, said the BBC. “A pro-independence activist is said to have raised concern that nearly £667,000 of funds raised for a future independence campaign may have been used for other purposes.” A police investigation was opened a few weeks later.
Both Sturgeon and Murrell have declined to comment on the video, the content of which was described by The Spectator’s Steerpike as “er, sub-optimal, to say the least”.
‘Absolutely not’ quitting
The opposition is putting pressure on the new first minister, Humza Yousaf, to suspend Sturgeon from the party.
Jackie Baillie, the deputy leader of Scottish Labour, accused Sturgeon of being “central to the secrecy”. Yousaf “must consider suspending her party membership and that of her husband… until the investigation has been concluded”, said Baillie.
Also calling for the couple’s suspension from the party, Scottish Conservative Party chairman Craig Hoy said the timing of Sturgeon’s claims about the health of the party’s finances was “frankly astonishing”.
As Sturgeon is “dragged deeper into the scandal engulfing the nationalists”, there is a “growing expectation” inside the SNP that she will quit as an MSP “sooner rather than later”, said The Telegraph.
She had planned to remain at Holyrood as a backbencher until at least 2026. But there are fears that any contributions she now makes as a backbencher “would be leapt on by opponents to draw public attention to the SNP’s turmoil and the ongoing fraud investigation”, the paper said. It quoted a senior SNP source who said that with Sturgeon’s reputation now “in tatters”, it was hard to “see the advantages to her in staying”.
However, the party’s former Westminster leader Ian Blackford said Sturgeon would “absolutely not” quit as an MSP. “There is no reason for that at all,” he told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, adding: “There is nothing which is in any way untoward on that clip which was shown over the course of the weekend.”
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