Audit of SNP's accounts identifies missing paperwork relating to membership and donations

The party said there is no suggestion of misappropriation of funds

An audit of the SNP's accounts has identified missing paperwork relating to membership, donations and raffle income.

The party said it remains on course to meet statutory deadlines for submitting its latest accounts to the Electoral Commission, but they will contain a “qualification”. It said there is no suggestion of misappropriation of funds.

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The SNP has faced a tight deadline to file its accounts after its previous auditors, Johnston Carmichael, resigned last September and were not replaced for more than six months.

First Minister and SNP leader Humza YousafFirst Minister and SNP leader Humza Yousaf
First Minister and SNP leader Humza Yousaf

The party’s Westminster group risked losing £1.2 million of public money if it did not submit audited accounts by May 31. Accounts for the wider party must be submitted to the Electoral Commission this month.

Manchester-based AMS Accountants Group was appointed in May to complete the accounts, and these have now been approved by the SNP’s National Executive Committee.

However, there was one aspect of income that could not be fully audited, the party said. The point of “qualification” on the accounts reads: “During the course of our audit, we identified that original documentation in respect to some items of cash and cheques received for the current and prior year, relating to membership, donations and raffle income were not kept by the party.

"We have been unable to satisfy ourselves by alternative means regarding the completeness of income in respect of the above limitation in scope. Consequently we are unable to determine whether any adjustment to income is necessary in the current or prior year and the potential impact on opening reserves accordingly.”

The SNP said it has always kept a “careful online record of all income received” and had responded to the auditors' administrative recommendations.

When auditors are fully confident in an organisation’s financial reporting their audit is said to be “unqualified”. If they have concerns about an area it is said to be “qualified”.

The most recent accounts are expected to be published by the Electoral Commission at a later date.

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SNP treasurer Stuart McDonald said: “I’m pleased to confirm that the Scottish National Party’s accounts have been approved by NEC for the year 2022 and we are in a position to meet our statutory obligations. The SNP’s main source of income remains our membership – which we are immensely grateful for.

“The audit process is an important part of transparency in the political sphere and I am grateful to colleagues in party HQ and our auditors for delivering these accounts in a timely manner. We have already engaged with auditors and implemented administrative changes in accordance with their recommendations and will continue to do so. And our learning from this process will also feed into the governance review which is underway, and which will see us adopt the best practice and procedures in terms of oversight.

“Against the backdrop of a Tory-made cost of living crisis and a decade which has seen eight election campaigns, the people-powered SNP campaign has faced challenges but we are optimistic of a return to surplus in the next set of accounts and will be more than ready for the next electoral challenge.”

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said the missing paperwork “would amount to a shocking lack of transparency in any organisation”, adding: “From a party in government, it is a disgrace that surely calls their credibility and probity into question.”

The Electoral Commission said it had not yet received the SNP’s accounts but it would publish them “as soon as practicable”. While political parties have submitted qualified accounts before, it is not common.

It comes amid an ongoing police investigation into the SNP’s finances, which recently led to the arrest of former first minister Nicola Sturgeon. She was questioned by detectives before being released without charge. Her husband Peter Murrell, the former chief executive of the SNP, and ex-party treasurer Colin Beattie were also previously arrested and released without charge as part of the probe.