SNP finances probe: Call for parliamentary inquiry as letter sent to Scottish Parliament presiding officer

The Scottish Conservatives have written to Alison Johnstone, Holyrood’s presiding officer

Events surrounding the ongoing probe into the SNP’s finances should be investigated by a parliamentary inquiry, the Scottish Conservatives have said.

The party’s chief whip Alexander Burnett has written to Alison Johnstone, the presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament, outlining his calls for a new committee to examine the facts of the case.

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Nicola Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell, the former chief executive of the SNP, and ex-party treasurer Colin Beattie have both been arrested and released without charge as part of the police probe, which was launched in July 2021.

Police officers outside the home of Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell last month. Picture: Robert Perry/PAPolice officers outside the home of Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell last month. Picture: Robert Perry/PA
Police officers outside the home of Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell last month. Picture: Robert Perry/PA

Mr Burnett said the committee which examined the handling of harassment complaints against Alex Salmond was set up in the midst of a police investigation, though it was not able to start its work until after the trial which saw the former first minister cleared. He said a similar committee could therefore be formed now, with its work beginning after the end of Operation Branchform – as the investigation into the SNP’s finances has been dubbed by Police Scotland.

In his letter, Mr Burnett said: “As you will be aware, over the past few weeks two senior Scottish National Party officials have been arrested, causing significant alarm to the public and the Parliament. This investigation has been ongoing for nearly two years now and there are many elements of the investigation where both the public and the media have expressed interest, and as a Parliament we have a duty to uncover the truth about this investigation.”

In a statement, Mr Burnett added: “Given that we are now almost two years on from the police investigation into the SNP’s murky financial situation being opened, the time is right for a robust parliamentary inquiry to be set up. Progress on the investigation has moved at a very slow pace and the public deserve answers on this and other recent revelations relating to this case.

“There is a clear parliamentary precedent for such an inquiry to be set up while a criminal investigation is continuing. MSPs rightly decided that a parliamentary inquiry was needed into how harassment complaints against Alex Salmond had been handled, while police continued their own inquiries."

He continued: “I urge fellow MSPs alongside me on the Parliament’s business bureau to back my calls for this new committee to give the public confidence that the whole truth around this increasingly murky affair involving Scotland’s ruling party will be laid bare once and for all.”

It came as the Crown Office faced questions over the timing of the search warrant executed on the home of Ms Sturgeon and Mr Murrell. According to a freedom of information request by the Tories, a request for a search warrant was sent to the Crown Office on March 20 – in the midst of the SNP leadership election – but was not green-lit until April 3, the week after the contest concluded.

Both the Crown and First Minister Humza Yousaf – the eventual winner of the race to replace Ms Sturgeon – have stressed that prosecutors act free from political interference.

A Police Scotland spokesman said: "As the investigation is ongoing we are unable to comment further.”