A former Scottish National Party (SNP) Minister has called for a forensic investigation into the Party’s finances following the resignation of its long-time auditors, Johnston Carmichael.
Alex Neil has called on new SNP First Minister, Humza Yousaf to “get to the bottom of this” and then “move on”.
Mr Yousaf confirmed that Johnston Carmichael resigned in September of 2022 and that the Electoral Commission was having difficulty identifying a replacement ahead of its accounts deadline on 7 July this year.
This announcement came after the arrest of former SNP Chief Executive Peter Murrell – husband of former SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – during a police investigation into SNP finances.
Mr Neil has urged Mr Yousaf, who was unaware that Johnston Carmichael had resigned until he took over as First Minister earlier this year, to “bring in special accountants called forensic accountants to look at every aspect of party funding and report back to the party at the earliest opportunity.”
He added that it was “absolutely unacceptable” that party members had had to wait for six months to find out about the resignation.
The police investigation began in July 2021 after claims that around £660,000 raised since 2017 for a second independence referendum campaign had been spent on other things.
The investigation has resulted in the seizure of a campervan located at Mr Murrell’s mother’s property and raids on the SNP’s headquarters, as well as on Ms Sturgeon’s and Mr Murrell’s home.
Colin Beattie, the SNP’s treasurer, has since been arrested by police who are investigating the party’s finances.
Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “Despite what the public sometimes believes, Forensic Accountants have no “special powers” or even the ability to access private bank accounts. They will therefore be reliant on basic investigative techniques to uncover any misspending of campaign funds.
“Prompted by the resignation of Johnston Carmichael, Alex Neil clearly sees value in the SNP bringing in its own team of forensic accountants to uncover the true scale of any financial regularities so that the party can take appropriate steps and move on.”
Roger added that, just like policework, much of what forensic accountants do is relatively mundane in terms of the process but their expertise can still be invaluable whether they are instructed in civil litigation, criminal proceedings or political investigations.
Source: BBC News