SNP treasurer Colin Beattie arrested in party finances probe

Party is in ‘total meltdown’ say Tories as first minister abandons key green policy

Jon Stone,Adam Forrest
Tuesday 18 April 2023 20:47 BST
SNP treasurer arrested as part of probe into party finances

The SNP leader Humza Yousaf said he does “not believe” the party is operating in a criminal way after the police investigation into its finances deepened with the arrest of its treasurer just hours before a major policy statement.

Colin Beattie, a member of the Scottish parliament, was taken into custody by Police Scotland on Tuesday for questioning, the latest development in the saga engulfing the party in power in Scotland.

It follows the arrest two weeks ago of chief executive Peter Murrell – Nicola Sturgeon’s husband – who was released without charge pending further inquiries.

Detectives are investigating £660,000 raised specifically for Scottish independence campaigning amid allegations sums were diverted, sparking an exit of senior figures. It came as:

  • Tories said the SNP was in ‘total meltdown’
  • Mr Yousaf announced a climbdown on a key green policy
  • A defeated leadership candidate expressed “sympathy” with calls for a re-run

Mr Beattie, 71, is a long-serving treasurer of the SNP and has been MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh since 2011, sitting on the parliament’s audit committee. He is a former banker.

Mr Yousaf, who last month won a leadership contest to replace Ms Sturgeon as leader and first minister of Scotland, is facing calls to suspend her and others under investigation.

A reporter asked Mr Yousaf: “Can you guarantee the party isn’t operating in a criminal way right now since you have been leader?”

He responded: “I certainly don’t believe it is at all, no,” adding, that he had ordered “a review into transparency and good governance” and that change is needed “within the way the party is operating”.

He said he wanted to discuss “pertinent issues” with Mr Beattie, who was last night released without charge pending further investigation, and said: “People are innocent until proven guilty.”

The first minister added: “Of course if they are guilty I would take the appropriate action, whether that is suspension or going further than that. But it is really important due process takes place.”

The response came as Mr Yousaf announced a significant climbdown by delaying the introduction of the controversial bottle deposit scheme until March 2024.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said Mr Yousaf was “not running a functioning government”, while Meghan Gallacher, deputy leader of the Scottish Tories, said the SNP was in “total meltdown”.

Humza Yousaf faced questions about turmoil at FMQs on Tuesday (Getty Images)

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner, in Dundee for the STUC conference, said: “The SNP act as though independence is a silver bullet. After 15 years of SNP government, there is not a single institution in Scotland that is stronger now than when they took office.”

Craig Hoy, the chair of the Scottish Conservatives, said the police investigation was “consuming” the SNP and urged the party’s leader to “get a grip of the situation”.

Mr Hoy said: “He must show some leadership and suspend Colin Beattie – along with Peter Murrell and Nicola Sturgeon. Colin Beattie should also stand down from membership of the public audit committee until the conclusion of the investigation.”

Nicola Sturgeon speaking to reporters outside her home (PA Wire)

There were further media reports over the weekend regarding Ms Sturgeon’s role in SNP finances – the Sunday Mail cited leaked emails that appeared to show she had blocked plans to hire a fundraising manager for the party despite concerns about transparency.

Ash Regan – who came last in the leadership contest – has said that she has “some sympathy” with those saying the contest should now be re-run given the ongoing turmoil.

Ms Reagan told BBC Radio 4 she was “quite shocked” by Mr Beattie’s arrest “and I think some action should be taken by Mr Yousaf”.

Colin Beattie and officers raiding SNP headquarters earlier this month (Corbis/Getty)

Asked if Ms Sturgeon and Mr Murrell should be suspended, she told the BBC: “If it is found that people have been involved in something of this situation, until that can be cleared up … they should be suspended from the party.” But she later clarified that SNP figures should only be suspended if “significant wrongdoing” was found.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “A 71-year-old man has today, Tuesday, 18 April 2023, been arrested as a suspect in connection with the ongoing investigation into the funding and finances of the Scottish National Party.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “We have no comment on a live police investigation.”

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