First Minister Humza Yousaf has been thrust into the role of overseeing the SNP’s finances after Colin Beattie resigned as treasurer following his arrest.
Mr Beattie was arrested on Tuesday in connection with a police investigation into the party’s finances and later released without charge “pending further investigation”.
In a statement released through the party on Wednesday, Mr Beattie said he would step back from the role, as well as giving up his position on Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee.
“We’ll appoint a treasurer in the coming days, but of course, as party leader, I’ll make sure I’m overseeing the finances of the party. But we’ll appoint a new national treasurer as soon as we can,” he said.
The post is usually one elected by members, but Mr Yousaf said the party was “not going to have time” to elect someone to the role and ruled out continuing in the job alongside being party leader and First Minister.
Asked if he pushed Mr Beattie to resign, Mr Yousaf said: “Colin and I had a conversation, as you’d expect us to do today, and he understood that the best thing for the party was for him to step back as being national treasurer.”
He also thanked Mr Beattie for “stepping back” from the role.
“I have also informed the SNP chief whip at Holyrood that I will be stepping back from my role on the Public Audit Committee until the police investigation has concluded.
“On a personal level, this decision has not been easy, but it is the right decision to avoid further distraction to the important work being led by Humza Yousaf to improve the SNP’s governance and transparency.
“I will continue to co-operate fully with Police Scotland’s inquiries and it would be inappropriate for me to comment any further on a live case.”
Mr Beattie also sits on the Scottish Commission for Public Audit – a body that scrutinises watchdog Audit Scotland and, among other responsibilities, is tasked with “appointing a qualified person to audit the accounts of Audit Scotland”.
A decision on his membership of the body will be made closer to its next meeting, it was understood.
Mr Yousaf thanked the former treasurer as he announced Mr Beattie’s resignation, saying on Twitter: “I know that his decision to step back from the role of SNP national treasurer will not have been an easy one, but he has done so in the best interest of the party.
“A new treasurer will be appointed as soon as possible.”
Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said the decision to step aside as treasurer is right, but was taken “by the wrong man” – accusing the SNP leader of “playing for time”.
Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the treasurer post would be the “least appealing” job in Scottish politics.
Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy suggested Mr Beattie should have been suspended as soon as he was arrested.
It comes hours after Deputy First Minister Shona Robison said it was “frustrating” that the controversy around the SNP overshadowed Mr Yousaf’s first major parliamentary speech as First Minister.
She urged the party to get its “house in order”.
Mr Beattie’s arrest came on the same day as Mr Yousaf aimed to set out a “fresh start” as he detailed the Scottish Government’s priorities for the next three years.
Mr Yousaf also confirmed delays to the introduction of the National Care Service and the deposit return scheme.
As Police Scotland investigated how more than £600,000 of SNP donations earmarked for independence campaigning was spent, Ms Robison said she hoped the Government could move on to focusing on issues that matter to the public.
During a visit to Dear Green Coffee Roasters in Glasgow on Wednesday, she said: “Of course, it is frustrating that we are not able to talk as much as we would like about the priorities that were set out in the prospectus yesterday, and I think households and people who are struggling with inflation figures today, who are struggling with the cost of things… will want to know what we as a Government are doing.”