June 4, 2023

Brighton Journal

Complete News World

SNP auditors have resigned amid police investigations into Peter Morell

  • Written by Andrew Kerr and Mary McCall
  • BBC Scotland News

image source, Getty Images

photo caption,

Police searched the Scottish National Party headquarters in Edinburgh this week

The BBC has learned that the company that scrutinizes the SNP’s finances has resigned.

Accountants Johnston Carmichael, who has worked with the party for more than a decade, said the decision was made after reviewing his clients.

Police investigating the SNP’s finances this week searched the home of former SNP chief executive Peter Morell – husband of Nicola Sturgeon. He was arrested and released without charge.

The BBC understands that Johnston Carmichael resigned prior to Morell’s arrest.

A spokesman for the SNP said it was looking for an alternative company.

Police Scotland have been investigating the SNP’s finances since July 2021.

On Wednesday, Morrell was arrested while dozens of officers carried out a high-level search at his home in Glasgow and the SNP headquarters in Edinburgh.

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Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Morell have had prominent roles on SNP for years

Ms Sturgeon, the former First Minister of Scotland, was at home when the police arrived but said she had “no advance knowledge” of Police Scotland’s plans.

Mr. Morrell was questioned during the search and was released without charge on Wednesday evening.

Prime Minister Hamza Yusuf, who succeeded Ms Sturgeon last week, said his party had “cooperated fully” with the police and would continue to do so.

He said it was “very, very clear that the party management was not what it should be”.

Why do police investigate an SNP?

  • Police Scotland launched an investigation in July 2021 following complaints about how SNP donations were being used.
  • The money was donated to a new independence referendum campaign.
  • The SNP raised £666,953 through referendum appeals between 2017 and 2020.
  • Nicola Sturgeon said she was “not interested” and that “every penny” would be spent on the independence campaign.
  • Questions were raised after the SNP’s accounts showed just £97,000 in the bank at the end of 2019, total assets around £272,000.

Mr Morell, who has been married to Ms Sturgeon since 2010, resigned last month after being held responsible for misleading statements about declining party membership.

Last year it emerged that he had made a loan of more than £100,000 to the SNP to help it solve its “cash flow” problem after the last election.

The party had paid off about half of the money by October of that year.

At the time, an SNP spokesperson said the loan was “a personal contribution made by the CEO to help with cash flow after the Holyrood election.”

He said it was reported in the party’s accounts for 2021.

Weeks earlier, MP Douglas Chapman resigned as party treasurer, saying he had not been given the “financial information” to do the job.

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A car returned to the tent outside Peter Morell and Nicola Sturgeon’s house

The SNP is required to prepare financial statements in accordance with the Political Parties, Elections and Referendum Act 2000. It has until 7 July to submit its accounts to the Electoral Commission.

If there is no report and no reasonable excuse, the Authority is entitled to appoint its own office of auditors.

The 2021 SNP Calculations were published on August 16, 2022.

The party’s total income was £4,510,460, total expenses £5,262,032, assets £1,630,454 and liabilities £1,055,689.

Electoral Commission rules state that any party with income or expenses in excess of £250,000 is required by law to also independently audit their accounts and include this report in their submission.

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Officers remained stationed outside the home of Peter Morell and Nicola Sturgeon on Wednesday night

Scottish Labor Deputy Leader Jackie Bailey said Johnston Carmichael’s resignation was a deeply worrying development and raised “serious questions” about the SNP’s finances.

She said: “Yesterday, Hamza Yusuf tried to distance himself from Peter Morrell’s legacy – today we need to know what the current first minister plans to do to put the SNP house in order.

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant – we need SNP transparency and openness now.”

Meanwhile, Constitution of the Scottish Conservative Party spokesman Donald Cameron said the SNP should be “completely transparent” about why the auditors decided to resign.

“The public are tired of the SNP covering matters relating to their finances behind a wall of secrecy, and senior figures – including Hamza Yusuf and Nicola Sturgeon – should be upfront about this situation,” he said.

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