SNP leadership race to replace Sturgeon blew huge hole in party’s finances

Nicola Sturgeon adamant on returning to SNP

The SNP leadership contest sparked by Nicola Sturgeon’s shock resignation cost the party £160,000 which was not budgeted for, according to leaked documents.

Treasurer Stuart McDonald disclosed the huge sum in a report to the meeting of the SNP’s National Council over the weekend.

He also revealed the party intended to recruit a “part-time qualified accountant” to keep an eye on its books.

He admitted there was a need to “rebuild trust” amid a police probe into the SNP’s finances.

The SNP MSP said: “While I cannot comment on the ongoing police investigation, one consequence is that there is work to do to rebuild trust in the processes and procedures that are in place to ensure financial management of our party.

“Working with staff, the Finance and Audit Committee and our auditors, steps have been taken and work is ongoing to refresh existing policies and introduce new policies which will improve accountability and transparency in financial decision making.

“Significantly, to improve the financial information that is available to staff, office bearers and NEC, colleagues on the National Executive Committee recently signed off on proposals to recruit a part-time qualified accountant; and while that recruitment process is ongoing. to engage an outside firm to undertake such work.”

Mr McDonald said the first half of 2023 was “not without challenges”.

He went on: “The overall cost of the leadership election was around £160,000, none of which was budgeted for.

“Membership income has been hit by the overall fall in membership numbers (73,936 as at 29 June), while the cost of living crisis has also impacted on the level of membership payments. However, looking ahead, the position is significantly more positive.

“While making predictions is not always wise, I remain confident our 2023 accounts will show a surplus as we build towards what will be a crucial general election year.

“We still have much work to do to ensure we put the party on the soundest financial footing possible.”

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Ms Stugeon’s resignation as SNP leader and Scottish First Minister in February prompted the bitter leadership race which Humza Yousaf narrowly won.

But a series of financial woes have come to light following her exit, including losing a third of the SNP’s members and the resignation of the party’s auditors.

Ms Sturgeon, her husband and former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell and ex-treasurer Colin Beattie have all been arrested as part of the police investigation into the party’s finances before being released without charge.

Operation Branchform centres on how £600,000 of donations earmarked for independence campaigning was spent.

It comes after the SNP’s accounts showed it made a loss of more than £800,000 last year after its income and membership dropped.

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