Senior SNP members interviewed over fraud allegations days before Sturgeon’s resignation

Douglas Chapman, the MP for Dunfermline and West FifeBy Lucy Ashton

Police Scotland interviewed senior SNP members over fraud allegations, just days before Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation was claimed today.

Former treasurer Douglas Chapman, pictured right,  is said to have spoken to detectives and other key figures in connection with the inquiry into claims that £600,000 of missing ring-fenced referendum cash went missing.

The inquiry into the £600,000 donation fraud was launched last year after it was claimed money raised in 2017 and 2019 had been illegally diverted.

The row sparked the resignation of several senior nationalists from the party’s ruling national executive committee after claims Chief executive of the SNP party Peter Murrell refused them permission to see party accounts.

Complaints of criminality are understood to have been received from at least 19 people. Murrell, who is married to the out-going First Minister, has yet to be contacted.

A source told the Sunday Mail: “Douglas Chapman spoke to police in the days before the First Minister caught everyone out with her resignation announcement.

“Several other former officials from the party’s governing body were contacted around the same time.

“The investigation seems to be homing in on a number of specific transactions so this is clearly a live investigation which is gathering pace.

“We don’t know whether Murrell or Sturgeon have been interviewed but it seems inconceivable that the chief executive would not be contacted at some point.

“He is the only person who had complete oversight and control over all aspects of accounts, how any money was spent and, ultimately, all key decisions.

“Whether or not this investigation played any part in the FM’s decision to announce her resignation when she did, we may never know

“It was something that was going to happen but everyone, including her most senior ministers, were caught out by the timing.”

Mr Chapman resigned as treasurer of the party in May 2021, claiming he had “not received the support of financial information” and is understood to have been interviewed as a potential witness.

Several other officials also resigned amid claims Murrell refused to give access to the accounts and are believed to be among others contacted by police in recent weeks.

It’s since emerged that Murrell gave a loan of £107,620 to the party to help it out with a “cash flow” issue after the last election in June 2021. Sturgeon has said she “can’t recall” when she learned of the loan but said it came from Murrell’s own “resources”.

The loan was made just months after the Sunday Mail first revealed the fraud investigation in April 2021. Electoral Commission records show Murrell handed the SNP the loan on June 20, 2021, with no security against it and no fixed interest rate. The watchdog was not notified until August 11, 2022.

It was also told an instalment of £26,905 was repaid on August 18, 2021, followed by a further instalment of £20,715 on October 25, 2021.

Failing to disclose a political donation or loan can result in sanctions from the Electoral Commission, which may also decide to refer the matter to police.

Edinburgh South MP Joanna Cherry stood down from the NEC over “transparency and scrutiny concerns”.

Three other members resigned from the party’s finance and audit committee.

Fund-raising documentation said the cash would be “ring-fenced” and only spent on a referendum campaign. However, the SNP’s accounts showed less than £100,000 in the bank at the end of 2019, despite the fact a referendum had not been held.

Police Scotland said: “A report which outlines inquiries already undertaken and seeks further instruction has been submitted to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.”

The Lord Advocate, Dorothy Bain, left, as law officer of the Scottish Government, has stepped aside and it is understood that Crown agent John Logue is overseeing the case.

The Crown Office said: “COPFS will continue to work with police in this ongoing investigation. The SNP said: “We are cooperating fully with the investigation.”

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