SNP to ask members for more IndyRef2 cash as police probe fraud allegations

SNP’s John Swinney grilled on party’s finances

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In the annual statement of the party’s finances, treasurer Colin Beattie said another campaign would be needed ahead of “critical political watersheds”. The SNP’s accounts added: “We are budgeting to allocate much of the remainder for referendum/independence preparations this year, with a need for a further fundraising exercise early in 2022 as we approach critical political watersheds.”

It comes as party chiefs are currently embroiled in a row regarding £600,000 in donations to pay for another referendum campaign.

Party insiders suggest the cash has been spent on legal fees and refurbishing the Edinburgh headquarters.

The SNP denies the claims but Police Scotland is investigating multiple allegations of fraud.

Five NEC members – including MPs Joanna Cherry and Douglas Chapman – have quit this year, with Ms Cherry claiming she had been prevented from carrying out her duties.

In the accounts, Mr Beattie acknowledged there had been “concern” about transparency over independence-related appeals that had raised more than £600,000.

However, he sought to reassure members that all of the money raised would be spent directly on the campaign to win independence.

Last night, Holyrood opposition parties claimed the party had their priorities wrong as Scotland battles another wave of COVID-19 cases.

Stephen Kerr MSP, Scottish Tory chief whip, said: “This is just the latest scam from the SNP to squeeze cash from its members for supposed indyref preparations.

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“Their own supporters will be outraged that they are planning to create yet another referendum fund while they are still under investigation for the first with £600,000 in missing donations.

“These fundraising plans openly reveal their determination to put Scotland through another divisive referendum in the midst of our recovery from the pandemic.

“The SNP Government must put an end to this reckless behaviour and instead focus on protecting jobs, rebuilding our country, and remobilising our NHS.”

A Scottish Labour spokesperson said: “All parties have fundraising exercises, but only the SNP would think it sensible to spend money on a divisive campaign to pull communities apart when the focus should be on national recovery.”

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Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said: “It says everything you need to know that Nicola Sturgeon relaunched the independence campaign last September on the eve of the deadly second wave.

“It doesn’t stop for anything. It’s why Scotland needs new hope right now for the NHS, business big and small and the standards of public services that people are clamouring for.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of pro-union campaign group Scotland in Union, said: “It’s up to the SNP how it spends members’ money, but this demonstrates how the party has the wrong priorities.

“The majority of people in Scotland do not want a divisive second referendum any time soon, and the SNP should drop its campaign to tear communities apart amid the ongoing Covid crisis.

“We are stronger together as part of the UK and can build a recovery that leaves nobody behind.”

At the same time, the accounts also reveal that Peter Murrell, Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, earned nearly £80,000 last year as SNP chief executive.

It was the first time the party had published the figure in a number of years and was disclosed after the SNP accounts were published by the Electoral Commission yesterday.

Mr Murrell has been dogged by claims of a lack of transparency within the party headquarters.

However, the accounts state: “As of May 31, 2021, the annual salary of our chief executive is £79,750.”

They also referred to the controversy over the “missing” £600,000 in donations for a second independence referendum.

The accounts state “if a donor expresses a wish for his/her donation to be utilised for a particular purpose Chief executive – whether of his/her own accord, or because they have donated in response to a particular appeal – this is recorded within HQ and a running total of such requests recorded”.

The accounts also reveal the overall number of SNP members at the end of 2020 was at 105,393, down from 125,691 on December 31, 2019.

There has since been an increase to more than 119,000 by the end of May 2021.

The SNP has been approached for comment.

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