SNP’s finances are in ‘robust health’ – Ian Blackford

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The SNP’s former Westminster leader has said the party’s finances are in “robust health” following claims its ruling body was told it is struggling financially.

Ian Blackford said the party can meet all its financial obligations and is “solvent”.

He was speaking following reports in The Sunday Times that the party’s treasurer Colin Beattie told the SNP’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on Saturday it is “having difficulty in balancing the books due to the reduction in membership and donors”.

Mr Blackford told BBC Radio Scotland’s The Sunday Show these reports had been “highly selective”, echoing comments by a party spokesman that the quotes were “out of context” and that Mr Beattie had told the NEC the party’s finances are “balanced”.

“Everybody knows there has been a dip in SNP membership. I’d like to think that we can grow the membership over the course of the coming period, but when all is said and done, we’ve still got over 70,000 members – members that are paying subscriptions – donations coming in, parliamentarians making contributions.

“As would be normal, we’d be looking at how we can raise additional funds as well.”

He added: “The party, financially, is in robust health in terms of meeting its obligations.”

The NEC agreed to hold a review into governance and transparency, including bringing in external oversight, which could include forensic accountants.

The review comes as police investigate the party’s finances in a probe which has involved former chief executive Peter Murrell being arrested then released without charge.

Mr Blackford also told the programme he could not “tell you exactly when” he heard that the party’s auditors had quit.

Earlier, it emerged Humza Yousaf did not know the firm had quit months previously until he became First Minister.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “That Blackford claims to not remember when he was told that the auditors had quit is mind-boggling.

“All the evidence shows that they resigned while he was leader of the SNP Westminster group.”

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said: “While sensible voices in the SNP are demanding the party finally fronts up and opens the books on its murky finances, Ian Blackford continues to treat members – and the public – as fools.”

Mr Blackford’s announcement about the party’s financial state came after a leaked video of former first minister Nicola Sturgeon, which was published by the Sunday Mail, showed her playing down concerns about the SNP’s finances.

In the two-minute clip, Ms Sturgeon told the National Executive Committee (NEC) members that the party’s finances “have never been stronger”.

The virtual meeting was reported to have taken place in March 2021, with her warning them to be “careful” about suggestions that “there are problems with the party’s finances because we depend on donors to donate”.

She added: “The party has never been in a stronger financial position than it is right now and that’s a reflection of our strength and our membership. So, just a bit of context for us all to remember.”

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