Former SNP treasurer Douglas Chapman says 'great disappointment' at not being able to make party accounts accessible forced him to quit role

The Dunfermline and West Fife is standing down at the next election.

Former SNP treasurer Douglas Chapman has revealed he quit the role over his “great disappointment” at not being allowed to make the party's accounts more accessible as he urged Humza Yousaf to do more to deliver independence.

The Dunfermline and West Fife was in charge of the SNP’s finances from 2020–2021 before resigning, claiming he was not given enough information to do his job.

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Speaking exclusively to The Scotsman, Mr Chapman, who has announced he is standing down at the next general election, admitted his party was going for a transition. But he insisted independence was now closer than when he first became an MP in 2015.

A sea of Scottish independence supporters. Former SNP treasurer Douglas Chapman says Humza Yousaf needs to do more to advance independence. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty ImagesA sea of Scottish independence supporters. Former SNP treasurer Douglas Chapman says Humza Yousaf needs to do more to advance independence. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
A sea of Scottish independence supporters. Former SNP treasurer Douglas Chapman says Humza Yousaf needs to do more to advance independence. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

And he defended expelled MP Angus MacNeil, saying he hoped the Western Isles politician would return to the SNP and claiming the former party colleague was not being “difficult for the sake of it”.

Discussing his resignation as treasurer, which came just two months before Police Scotland officially launched its investigation into the whereabouts of £600,000 raised by SNP activists, Mr Chapman said he had wanted more transparency.

“I think there’s a bit of work to be done in terms of party organisation,” he said. “I know that certain people have been put in place to assist with that and we need to just let them get on with the job.

“My role as treasurer really was, I went in with the ambition of making the accounts much more accessible to the membership. And unfortunately the way things worked out, I wasn’t really allowed to do that, which was a great disappointment.

Outgoing SNP MP Douglas ChapmanOutgoing SNP MP Douglas Chapman
Outgoing SNP MP Douglas Chapman

“I think there’s a good story to tell, in lots of different ways, but that’s not how other people saw it. They left me with no choice, but to walk away, and I’m not really a guy for walking away a lot of the time. But there comes a point where you realise you’re tired of pushing this big boulder up the hill, so I thought it was best to perhaps leave that to somebody else.”

Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon, her husband Peter Murrell and former treasurer Colin Beattie have all been arrested by police as part of the investigation into party finances. All three were released without charge, pending further enquiries.

Mr Yousaf insisted last week the SNP was on a “steady footing”, despite figures showing the party’s deficit grew to more than £800,000 last year.

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Mr Chapman insisted it was not "unusual" for political parties to be in a deficit, adding: "Obviously it's not ideal being in a deficit, but it's not an unusual position for political parties to be in.”

Mr Chapman is one of eight SNP MPs who have already confirmed they will not stand for re-election next year in what looms as a significant changing of the guard. He called for the party to “re-establish our leadership credentials across the board”, adding: “We are still by far the biggest pro-independence party in Scotland and we need to start really acting, taking the lead and taking us towards independence because I really can't see any other solution for Scotland.

“The Westminster parliament and the Government seems to be treating Scotland with even more contempt than ever before, and there’s no sign of that changing, even if it was a Labour Government.

“We’ve still got high levels of child poverty, for example, in Scotland, and I think now the majority of Scots believe we can solve these ingrained problems in Scottish society and the Scottish economy is going for self-determination and creating our own independent parliament.

“I think we all just want to be happier, healthier and more prosperous, and I can’t see any of these three things being delivered if we remain in the UK.”

Asked for specific areas not being addressed as part of the UK, Mr Chapman, who sits on the public accounts committee, pointed to a lack of investment in infrastructure, and inability to spend as much as the UK Government.

He said: “There’s quite a few things. Obviously not having access to your total tax base is a huge negative. One of the questions I have had, during one of the committees I was on, which was public accounts, was about Crossrail. The Government decided to spend something like £14 billion on Crossrail, which was like a 17-mile rail track across London.

“That project, I don’t know, maybe it was required, maybe it was needed. But it’s four years late, it’s £4 billion over budget. So I have to ask, where’s Scotland’s £18bn infrastructure project? Where’s the project of that scale for Wales or Northern Ireland?”.

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Mr Chapman also raised the idea floated by his “former colleague” Angus MacNeil, who suggested underground tunnels between islands, like those used in the Faroe Islands.

He said: “It would take away the need in some fairly harsh conditions to run a ferry service, and these are the kinds of smart and forward thinking solutions we need as a nation, and we are waiting for Westminster to come up with an £18bn investment for the Western Isles, and I think we’ve been waiting a long time.

“That’s almost the entire half the entire budget for the Scottish Government. So we need to be elected to borrow money from international markets to build our infrastructure, and use the resources we have in the country.”

Mr Chapman also expressed hope Mr MacNeil returns to the SNP. The Western Isles MP was expelled from the party’s Westminster group last month and is now set to run as an independent.

Mr Chapman said: “I think Angus is just hugely frustrated, as some of us are as well. We can see the potential in the nation, we can see the opportunity that lies before us, but for some reason there’s some people at the top of the party not prepared to push as hard as they can be.

“Whether we look at this as a huge missed opportunity or a way of spurring people on, I think Angus is in the camp of trying to spur people on. He’s not trying to be difficult for the sake of it. He’s trying to get people to wake up to what their responsibilities are.

"The First Minister said we had all the time in the world and I don’t think we do. The Union has not worked for Scotland and we need to change that.”

A backer of Kate Forbes for leader, Mr Chapman praised Mr Yousaf, but called for him to show more leadership to deliver independence.

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He said: “The only way we’re going to win independence is by knocking doors and explaining to people the opportunities that lie before our nation. While Humza has said he wants to be the First Minister and the first activist, to be fair, I think he’s been pretty shoulder to the wheel, out and about, and making sure he’s got a high profile within the party.

"I think overall what we are lacking, and maybe this will come after the October conference, is real leadership, based on a strategy that will take us right to the door of independence, and then have enough in the tank to get us over the line.

“I don’t just mean the SNP. We need to engage better with like-minded people who are not SNP members, who are not members of any political party, and we need to do more to engage on that front and take people with us.

“There’s no point in having all the really good ideas about being independent if if the majority of people can’t see the bigger picture of why we need independence and what it could do for our country.”

Mr Chapman was more positive about new SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, who replaced Ian Blackford, but suggested SNP MPs needed a more coherent strategy on independence.

He said: “Stephen has made a considerable difference, but we still need to work out what SNP MPs are at Westminster for. For example through the last few years, we focused on Brexit, and we’ve been trying to almost save the British people from the decision that they’ve made, and I don’t think we should be doing that at all.

“If the British majority is that we should have Brexit, they should have Brexit. But our big challenge should have been ‘what does the SNP get out of this, what does Scotland get out of this?’

“Going into the next parliament, irrespective of what the result is, the SNP group need to work out exactly why they’re there and have a work plan around that, which if it’s been there, it certainly hasn’t involved the whole group.”

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Reflecting on his time as an MP and councillor, the SNP's small business, enterprise and innovation spokesperson admitted he originally only wanted to stand for one term.

He said: “Quite honestly, when I was elected in 2015, I genuinely thought we’d get independence soon after, but it’s not quite worked out like that.

“As a councillor I had some campaigns I was already involved with more locally, and I’ve managed to integrate those as an MP. So things like winning city status for Dunfermline, we were trying to pursue two new high schools that really needed to be replaced and now we’ve got these being built and a huge super campus along with Fife College.

“The other big thing I am hoping will finally be completed by the time I hang up my boots, or hang up my manifesto, is delivering a ferry service directly from Rosyth to the EU. All of these things, while they’re maybe not great things that happened in Westminster, they’ve been things that really affected the constituency.”



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