The SNP's £600k 'missing cash' and what it could mean

Transparency concerns at the top of the SNP and allegations of fraud have rocked Scotland’s ruling party, but what is at the heart of the issue?

Resignations

There have been two high profile resignations in the past few days within the national executive committee (NEC) of the SNP

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In late 2020, a swathe of new additions were elected to the NEC, including Joanna Cherry, the firebrand Edinburgh MP.

The SNP is embroiled in allegations around £600,000 donated to the party has gone missing from its accounts.

This was viewed by some within the party as a “warning shot” to the Sturgeonite leadership, but a renewed mandate on stronger terms than in 2016 and post the chastening Alex Salmond inquiry has strengthened the SNP leader’s position.

On Saturday night, Douglas Chapman, one of the newly elected NEC members, resigned from the position of party treasurer, citing concerns around transparency.

This was backed up by Ms Cherry’s resignation on Monday, with the public explanation being similar transparency and accountability concerns.

These resignations follow similar moves pre-election by three members of the party’s finance committee.

Frank Ross, Edinburgh’s Lord Provost, Allison Graham, and Cynthia Guthrie all resigned from the committee in April over the lack of access to accounts.

Ms Guthrie later stood as a candidate for the Alba Party in the Holyrood elections. Mr Chapman and Ms Cherry were widely believed to be likely defectors to the new pro-independence party.

The ‘missing £600,000’

The row centres around just under £600,000 of crowdfunded cash donated to the SNP by supporters to help fund the next referendum campaign.

In an email to donors, the former SNP treasurer Colin Beattie insisted the money remained ringfenced and was “woven through” the accounts.

He states the figure available to the SNP was £593,501.

However, many independence activists allege this money has ‘disappeared’ from the SNP accounts, with Police Scotland assessing a complaint made to them about the cash.

No investigation is underway as yet, with both the Electoral Commission and the SNP claiming they have no knowledge of any investigation.

The party have also claimed the accusations the money has disappeared is part of a wider “dirty tricks” campaign directed against the leadership.

Transparency

The issue of the ‘missing money’ comes down to a fundamental mistrust between parts of the pro-independence movement and the current SNP leadership.

Many believe the SNP are not serious about independence and would argue, as Mr Salmond does, that Nicola Sturgeon has done nothing to advance the cause since she became leader in 2014.

Whether the ‘Referendum Appeal Fund’ has been fraudulently removed from the SNP accounts or not will be decided by the police if they investigate and is, in reality, a sideshow to the power struggle ongoing within the party.

Transparency is at the heart of the complaints from those in disagreement with the leadership, as well as the hope – almost in desperation – there remains some dirt to be exposed on the First Minister.

Those championing it are those most likely to have a political axe to grind, and Ms Cherry, previously viewed as a potential challenger to Ms Sturgeon, is viewed by moderate SNP sources as having now thrown in the towel.

The more puzzling resignation is that of Marco Biagi. A party moderate, his decision to quit as head of the party’s independence taskforce speaks of a deeper malaise within SNP ranks.

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