SNP admit spending 'ringfenced' £600k funds elsewhere

Money donated by independence supporters to the SNP claimed to have been ‘ringfenced’ by the party has been spent on other things, the party’s treasurer has admitted.

In a statement following a meeting of the party’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC), newly-appointed and returning treasurer Colin Beattie admitted the more than £600,000 raised as part of a drive to pay for a second independence referendum campaign had been spent by the party.

However, he claimed the money had been “earmarked” by the party, meaning the SNP would spent an equivalent sum on an independence campaign in the future.

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First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party Nicola Sturgeon has come under pressure to explain the whereabouts of £600k of donations to the party.

The party has previously confirmed it will spend £600,000 on referendum campaign preparations this year.

Mr Beattie returned to the role of treasurer after Douglas Chapman resigned from the role over a lack of transparency around the accounts of the party.

Firebrand MP Joanna Cherry also quit the NEC for the same reason.

The party treasurer said a total of £666,953 had been raised through referendum-related appeals between 2017 and 2020, adding that only £51,760 had been spent directly on campaigning for another vote.

The SNP’s accounts show the party has £96,854 in the bank.

In his statement, Mr Beattie explains the party will spend the same amount of money raised on a future independence referendum campaign despite the cash having been spent in the interim period.

He states funds received are “earmarked” as being linked to a certain purpose, with “amounts equivalent to the sums raised” spent on “the intended purpose”.

Mr Beattie said: “Of course, the SNP is the party of independence and, as such, every penny we spend – directly or indirectly – is in support of winning independence.

"However, through this internal process we will ensure that an amount equivalent to the sums raised from these appeals will go directly to our work to secure a referendum and win independence.

"The balance remains ‘earmarked’ – through the internal process explained above – for independence-related campaigning.

"It is worth noting that there are other items of expenditure that it would have been perfectly legitimate for us to apply against this income, but we have chosen not to do so. In other words, we are taking a very strict approach to ensuring that this income supports expenditure directly related to the campaign for independence.”

Mr Beattie said there may be a need for further fundraising in coming months or in early 2022 as “we approach critical political watersheds”.

He said discussions between himself, chief executive Peter Murrell and the party’s external auditors are ongoing about how to improve transparency around the party’s finances in future years.

An analysis of the party’s accounts by The Scotsman show their year-on-year overall surplus currently stands at £722,642 in 2019, compared to a deficit of £66,115 in 2002.

This is based on £57,284,972 of income for the party, which has spent £56,562,330 in the same time period.

Police Scotland continue to assess an allegation of fraud around the £600k, but have yet to make a decision as to whether to formally investigate the party.

The allegations have been described as being party of a “dirty tricks campaign” by the SNP.

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