Crisis Deepens for SNP: Treasurer Arrested, Party Under Scrutiny
SNP leaders held emergency talks following the arrest of Colin Beattie, the party’s treasurer since 2016, earlier today. Mr Beattie was detained by police investigating the party’s funding and finances. This development came just before First Minister Humza Yousaf was scheduled to make his first major statement in Holyrood, outlining his priorities.
Anas Sarwar, leader of Scottish Labour, condemned the SNP as being “engulfed in scandal” as he awaited entry into the chamber. Sarwar criticized the current state of the government, referring to it as a “lame duck first minister and a lame duck government” and claiming that Scotland needed a “new energy” that Yousaf may not be able to provide.
First Minister Acknowledges Challenges Amidst Arrest of Party Treasurer
Yousaf, who had planned to offer a “fresh start” in his speech, acknowledged to Sky News that Beattie’s arrest was “not helpful” but maintained his determination to set out his vision. When asked if he was surprised by the news, Yousaf responded, “Of course, I’m surprised when one of my colleagues is arrested.”
Despite the development, Beattie has not been suspended from the SNP, as confirmed by Yousaf in his earlier statements to reporters. Yousaf emphasized the principle of innocence until proven guilty, stating, “I’ve said already that people are innocent until they are proven guilty.”
During his address to the Scottish parliament, Yousaf acknowledged that being the first minister was not without challenges, which prompted laughter in the chamber. Police Scotland did not disclose the arrested man’s name but confirmed that a 71-year-old suspect was detained on Tuesday and is currently in custody, being questioned by detectives.
A report will be sent to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, and due to the ongoing investigation, further comments from the police were unavailable.
Beattie’s arrest marks the second high-profile arrest of an SNP figure in recent weeks. Peter Murrell, the party’s former chief executive and Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, was previously detained by police in connection with the investigation into the party’s finances. Murrell was released without charge after an 11-hour detention, pending further investigations.
Simultaneously, detectives seized a £100,000 motorhome from outside the home of one of Murrell’s elderly relatives while he was in police custody.
Mr Yousaf also said he was unaware the SNP owned the motorhome until he became party leader in recent weeks.
In another move that has hit the party, it emerged days after Mr Murrell’s arrest, its long-standing auditors Johnston Carmichael quit.
There have been questions hanging over Mr Yousaf after he admitted that the party’s auditors had in fact quit months before the official announcement and he had not been aware at the time.
Asked whether it was wrong of Ms Sturgeon not to reveal to SNP leadership candidates the lack of auditors, Mr Yousaf said: “Frankly it would have been helpful to know beforehand.
“I think people have a reasonable question to ask the party around transparency. I have committed to a review of governance with external input.”
The new SNP leader – who billed himself as the “continuity candidate” during the race to replace Ms Sturgeon – is under pressure to distance himself from his predecessor following the series of damaging events which have overshadowed his first few weeks in the top job.
Over the weekend, a video emerged in which Ms Sturgeon appeared to tell the party’s ruling body back in March 2021 to “be very careful” about suggesting the SNP was suffering from financial problems.
There were reports that Mr Beattie had issued a stark message about the SNP’s cash flow, warning that it was difficult to balance the books.
Mr Yousaf has faced calls to suspend Ms Sturgeon from the party if she failed to resign herself.
He will address the Scottish Parliament today for the first time since the Easter recess, in a session that reports suggest Ms Sturgeon will be absent from.
On Monday, the party’s former leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, sought to defend Ms Sturgeon and dismissed rumours that she could quit the party.
The Daily Telegraph quoted a source within the party saying she planned to step down “sooner rather than later” amid the ongoing controversies – but Mr Blackford rejected this as “idle speculation”, telling the BBC she still had “an awful lot to give”.