'SNP fraud probe makes case for Lord Advocate reform', say Lib Dems

The ongoing police investigation into alleged misuse of funds donated to the SNP makes the case for the role of the Lord Advocate to be reformed, the Scottish Liberal Democrats have said.

Police Scotland announced last week it had launched a formal investigation into complaints made against Nicola Sturgeon’s party around how it spent £650,000 of crowdfunded donations, raised ostensibly for a referendum campaign.

The party’s treasurer, Colin Beattie, said “amounts equivalent” to the money raised will be spent on referendum campaigning in the future, but concerns around the party’s transparency on its accounts led to the resignation of Douglas Chapman MP as treasurer and Joanna Cherry MP from the SNP’s national executive committee.

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The SNP is under investigation by the police around how it spent £650,000 of crowdfunded donations

Outgoing leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Willie Rennie, said the probe showed the need for the role of the Lord Advocate to be split up and an independent director of prosecutions to be appointed.

The Lord Advocate’s role has historically been split between leading the Crown Office and working as the government’s chief legal adviser.

Mr Rennie said: “It has been clear for some time that the role of Lord Advocate needs split to end the apparent conflicts of interest.

“Only Peter Murrell knows what the police probe will uncover, but it is a bad look for decisions over prosecutions to be taken by the same person who is responsible for giving the First Minister her legal advice.

“Dorothy Bain is a figure of the utmost integrity, but I am sure that she recognises that this is not an ideal situation for anyone to be put in.

“In the later days of the last parliament, the conflict of interest between the duties of the Lord Advocate fell into sharp focus. The police probe into the SNP has brought it to the fore once more.

“An independent Director of Public Prosecutions to run the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service could ease the pressure and reassure the public that there is no conflict between these two roles.

“This reform is in the hands of the First Minister. She should act now to make it happen.”

The Scottish Government was contacted for comment.

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