SNP cars among high-value purchases investigated by police
Police Scotland is investigating high-value transactions, including vehicle purchases made by the SNP as part of an inquiry into alleged missing party funds.
It is understood that detectives have questioned senior figures about items of spending and also gifts dating back to 2018 as part of the investigation, which is codenamed Operation Branchform.
Crown prosecutors are directing the inquiry, which was triggered by at least 19 criminal complaints that £600,000 of donations to a “ring-fenced” referendum fund had been misappropriated.
Nicola Sturgeon last week disclosed that she and Peter Murrell, her husband and the SNP’s former chief executive, had yet to be spoken to as part of the investigation.
The First Minister said she would not comment on the investigation but denied any knowledge about a potential interview with the force.
But a source told the Mail on Sunday: “Police are particularly interested in vehicle purchases and other items of capital expenditure.
“Some of the people spoken to have been surprised to find questioning focused on this rather than donations.” The last accounts filed for the party show a £80,632 “tangible asset” of “motor vehicles”.
Supporters made complaints
Supporters made complaints when accounts lodged with Companies House in 2020 appeared to show the SNP only had £97,000 in the bank, forcing the party to admit the £600,000 had not been set aside.
Instead, it claimed the cash donated by supporters had been “earmarked” for use in a future campaign through an internal process that would “ensure that pound for pound that total will be spent on that campaign”.
Only three days before Ms Sturgeon quit last month, it emerged that the force was stepping up Operation Branchform, and had started contacting key witnesses to take substantive statements.
Douglas Chapman, SNP MP and the party’s former treasurer, was among those interviewed by officers shortly before her resignation last month.
It also emerged that Mr Murrell loaned the SNP £107,620 the day after a party leadership meeting discussed the police investigation.
He resigned as chief executive earlier this month over inaccurate denials issued to the press about the SNP losing 30,000 members.
The SNP has previously denied any wrongdoing around party finances. Responding to the latest disclosures, a party spokesman said: “We will cooperate fully with the police investigation and will make no further comment.”
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “A report which outlines enquiries already undertaken and seeks further instruction has been submitted to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).
“We are working closely with COPFS as the investigation continues.”