SNP 'missing funds': Party 'closed public books' in 2014 under Alex Salmond

The SNP’s problems around the allegedly missing £600,000 in donations will not be helped by a decision made in 2014 to shut its books.

Transparency concerns around just under £600,000 of “ring-fenced” donations to the party have been raised by many disaffected pro-independence supporters.

Several SNP national executive committee members, including treasurer Douglas Chapman and high-profile Edinburgh MP Joanna Cherry, have quit over the lack of transparency around the party’s finances.

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The SNP's £600k 'missing cash' and what it could mean
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: PA

However, an analysis of the public accounts undertaken by The Scotsman shows that a decision made while under the leadership of Alex Salmond may have unwittingly heaped pressure onto the party in 2021.

Prior to the 2013 accounts, the SNP’s accounts submitted to the Electoral Commission showed both “unrestricted” and “restricted” funds, with the latter referring to any donation linked to specific activity such as campaigning.

This is where the vast majority of donations to the party sat in the accounts, including the £1m from EuroMillions winners Colin and Christine Weir received in 2011.

Other donations such as legacies, donated through individual’s wills, went into the “unrestricted” funds.

This system allowed individuals to check the party’s annual accounts for the amount of money donated into a specific fund and the amount spent from that fund each year .

Any overspend would be topped up by additional cash from unrestricted funds.

However, the 2013 accounts are the last to break down the SNP’s reserves in this way.

They state that at the start of that year, just over £503,000 was in the SNP’s reserves, dropping to a deficit of £235,000 after the party spent £738,000 from the funds during the year.

The equivalent figure in their latest accounts for 2019 is a surplus of £271,916, having run a deficit of £319,161 for the year.

It is understood the SNP opened their books as part of an attempt from the Electoral Commission to bring political parties closer in line with how charities present their accounts.

However, when the pressure failed to see the larger parties back down, the SNP reverted to the approach taken by other political groups and closed their public-facing books in the process.

Cash-in-hand or in the bank has only risen to levels about £100,000 four times since 2008, each time coinciding with or shortly after significant donations from the Weir family.

The accounts also show that based on income and expenditure figures available to 2002, the earliest the figures are publicly available, the SNP has run a surplus in eight years since 2002.

The 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.

The surplus may be higher or lower, but it is not possible to be fully accurate due to accounts not being available pre-2002.

The SNP has also, for two years in a row, expected more than £800,000 in “prepayments or accrued income” from debtors – people the party expect to receive income from in the coming year.

It would not confirm whether the independence campaign fund was included in this figure, but said: “The SNP has committed £600,000 this year to prepare for the second independence referendum."

A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission added: “Parties have a responsibility to maintain clear and accurate internal accounting records. They must also submit an annual Statement of Accounts, which we publish on our website.

"There is no requirement for parties to use a particular format for their Statement of Accounts. However, the commission provides a standard format which can be used to make it easier for voters to make meaningful comparisons between the finances of different parties.”

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