Police investigation into SNP finances – a timeline and what we know so far

SNP treasure Colin Beattie has been arrested by police investigating the party’s finances.

Mr Beattie, 71, is the second senior SNP figure to be taken into custody after Peter Murrell – the former chief executive and husband of Nicola Sturgeon.

Here is how the investigation has played out so far.

May 2021 – MP quits party finance role

The home of Scottish National Party (SNP) treasurer Colin Beattie in Dalkeith, pictured, and Peter Murrell.The home of Scottish National Party (SNP) treasurer Colin Beattie in Dalkeith, pictured, and Peter Murrell.
The home of Scottish National Party (SNP) treasurer Colin Beattie in Dalkeith, pictured, and Peter Murrell.

MP Douglas Chapman resigned from his role as the party’s treasurer, saying he had not been given enough information to do his job.

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Senior figures in the party, including Nicola Sturgeon, later disputed his assessment.

Joanna Cherry, a vocal internal critic of the party’s leadership, also resigned from her role on the national executive committee (NEC).

July 2021 – Police open investigation

Police Scotland confirmed they were investigating after seven complaints were made around donations to the SNP.

This followed allegations that £600,000 raised for campaigning towards Scottish independence was diverted elsewhere.

Earlier, the police force said they were assessing a fraud allegation relating to £600,000 of funds “to determine if an investigation is required”.

The party said that “all sums raised for independence campaigning will be spent on independence campaigning”.

August 2021 – Party accounts acknowledge ‘concern’

As the party’s annual accounts were published, treasurer Colin Beattie acknowledged there had been “concern” about transparency over independence-related appeals that had raised more than £600,000.

In a section of the accounts, Mr Beattie discussed money raised by the referendum-related appeals since 2017.

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He said that £666,953 had been raised up to the end of 2021, with a total of £51,760 expenditure applied to this income.

The money was “earmarked” through internal processes, he said, though the accounts did not officially record a separate sum.

December 2022 – Loan to SNP emerges

In December, it emerged that Mr Murrell had loaned the party £100,000 in June 2021.

The party said this was to help with a “cash flow” issue after the election that year.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The resources that he lent the party were resources that belonged to him.”

February 2023 – Nicola Sturgeon resigns

She said this was not in relation to short-term pressures but because she knew in her “head and heart” that the time was right to go.

During her Bute House press conference, she was asked if she expected to be interviewed in relation to the investigation. She said she did not.

March 2023 – Peter Murrell resigns

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It came during a row over the party’s membership numbers, which had also led to media chief Murray Foote stepping down.

Membership numbers had dropped by about 30,000 in the last year, something the party had previously denied.

April 2023 – Murrell arrested as police search premises

Mr Murrell was arrested on the morning of Wednesday April 5.

He was released without charge, pending further investigation, the same day.

April 2023 – Treasurer arrested

On April 18, party treasurer Colin Beattie was arrested and interviewed by police.

His role is to oversee the party’s finances.