Sturgeon has no concern over SNP finances despite row

Sturgeon has no concern over SNP finances despite row

Nicola Sturgeon has said she is “not concerned” about the SNP’s finances despite two members of the party’s governing body resigning.

And she said “every penny” of a crowdfunder for independence would be spent on a referendum campaign.

Douglas Chapman quit as SNP treasurer saying he had not been given enough financial information to do the job.

Fellow MP Joanna Cherry also resigned from the party’s management board amid a row over “transparency and scrutiny”.

However Ms Sturgeon insisted there was “full scrutiny” of the SNP’s finances, which she said were independently audited and sent to the Electoral Commission.

And she said no money had gone missing in light of a complaint to the police over the whereabouts of cash donated for pro-independence campaigning.

The party’s most recent accounts showed that it had about £96,000 in the bank at the end of 2019, and total net assets of about £272,000.

The SNP brought in a total of £5.3m and spent £5.6m that year.

Ms Cherry resigned from the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) on Monday, saying that a number of factors had prevented her from “improving transparency and scrutiny”.

This echoed criticism from Mr Chapman, who quit two days earlier saying he had “not received the support or financial information to carry out the fiduciary duties of National Treasurer”.

Asked about this, Ms Sturgeon said she was “not concerned about the party’s finances”.

She said: “The finances of the SNP are independently audited, our accounts are sent to the EC in common with other parties, and published, so there’s full scrutiny around that.”

The first minister also addressed concerns about cash donated by activists for pro-independence campaigning, insisting that “money hasn’t gone missing”.

The SNP frequently uses crowdfunding to finance its campaigning.

Many of its local campaigns around Scotland for May’s Holyrood election used online fundraising platforms, with the effort to re-elect John Swinney in Perthshire North gathering more than £15,000.

However there has been controversy over some fundraising which was said to be specifically for pro-independence campaigning, but which is not separated out within the party’s accounts.

The SNP launched a fundraising website in 2017 as part of a drive for a new independence referendum, aiming to bring in £1m in donations.

Almost £500,000 was reportedly raised, and while the website was taken down in the wake of that year’s general election – which saw the SNP lose 21 seats – the party said the cash “will only be used for the specific purpose of an referendum campaign”.

Six months ago, candidates critical of Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership won a block of seats on the SNP’s ruling body – the NEC – and other key party committees.

Some wanted greater priority given to independence. Some wanted a more cautious approach to reform of the gender recognition Act. Others raised concerns about how the party dealt with harassment complaints against Alex Salmond.

Some of those elected – including the party’s womens’ and equalities convenors and the MP Neale Hanvey – have since quit the SNP for Mr Salmond’s Alba party.

The MP Douglas Chapman was among those who stayed to pursue internal reforms as party treasurer. But his decision to quit, complaining about a lack of information over party finances, has alarmed some in the party.

One NEC member told me there would be “a lot of questions” for party officials at their next meeting later this month. A new treasurer will also have to be found to sign off the party’s annual accounts.

The party has run further referendum campaign crowdfunders since, including one in 2019 which aimed to elicit donations to distribute pro-independence literature to every household in Scotland.

Some independence activists have complained that this “ring-fenced” money does not appear separately in the SNP’s accounts and could therefore be used for day-to-day expenses.

A complaint was submitted to Police Scotland about it in March, which the force said was “being assessed to determine if an investigation is required”.

Ms Sturgeon said that while the money was not held in a separate account, “every penny” of it would be spent on the independence campaign.

She said: “Money hasn’t gone missing – all money goes through the SNP accounts, which are independently and fully audited.

“We don’t hold separate accounts, we are under no legal requirement to do that. Our accounts are managed on a cash flow basis.

“Every penny we raise to support the campaign for independence will be spent on the campaign for independence.”

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