SNP finances probe: Police Scotland refuse to release correspondence it had with SNP and Scottish Government around finances investigation
Police Scotland have claimed it would be too expensive to release correspondence it had with the SNP and the Scottish Government about the probe into the finances of Scotland’s governing party despite demands for transparency about what senior SNP figures knew about the investigation.
The SNP descended into crisis when Peter Murrell, Nicola Sturgeon’s husband and former chief executive of the party, was arrested on April 5, before the party’s then-treasurer, Colin Beattie, was arrested two weeks later on April 18.
Both were released without charge pending further investigation, but the investigation’s progress has overshadowed Humza Yousaf’s start in the job of First Minister.
Police Scotland were asked to release any correspondence they held between the force and the SNP or the Scottish Government both prior to Ms Sturgeon’s resignation and after Mr Yousaf was in post.
The force said such information would be too expensive to release, with a minimum of 604 documents referencing Operation Branchform.
They also claimed they would have to check every single email account of every Police Scotland officer to see whether there had been any contact with the SNP or the Scottish Government on the day of Mr Murrell’s arrest.
The Scottish Government said it did not hold any correspondence with Police Scotland on the topic of the investigation on the day of Mr Murrell’s arrest, or in the month and a half prior to Ms Sturgeon’s resignation as First Minister.
Other correspondence released by the Scottish Government, however, shows how Scotland’s most senior civil servant, permanent secretary JP Marks, formally noted how he informed Mr Yousaf of the developments around Mr Murrell’s arrest.
In an email, he said he had been contacted by Chief Constable Iain Livingstone at 8am that day – 15 minutes after the former SNP chief executive was arrested by officers.
He said: “I informed you after the event and after this PS [Police Scotland] action had occurred; as is routine, with the explicit permission of the CC [Chief Constable].
“In terms of any and all liaison from SG [Scottish Government] Ministers or senior SG officials on Operation Branchform, I have agreed with the CC this should be via me only without exception.”
Both Mr Yousaf’s principal private secretary and chief of staff were copied in to the email chain.
Mr Marks added: “In terms of SG media response, important, of course, that we (SG) do not comment on Police investigations. I see this is now in the public domain from PS, so do liaise with Comms [PPS] as you judge necessary so they handle with care please.”
Around 25 minutes after the first email to the First Minister, Mr Yousaf responded.
He said: “Noted. JP and I have spoken this morning and he has relayed the information to me as per the email below, after the event and with the explicit consent of the Chief Constable.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Given that there is a live police investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment”.
A Police Scotland spokesperson added: "As the investigation is ongoing we are unable to comment further." The SNP were contacted for comment.
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