SNP plunge £800,000 into the red while Peter Murrell still owed £60,000 and membership slumps

The SNP recorded its second largest deficit in 2022 as it spent £800,000 more than it brought in through donations and membership income. And the party still owe shamed former chief executive Peter Murrell £60,000, more than half what he originally loaned them.

Humza Yousaf’s party racked up this huge spending deficit despite not having any elections to fight over the past year. And supporters also deserted the SNP as figures slumped from 103,884 at the end of 2021 to just 73,936 at the end of June 2023. At the end of 2022, it was at 82,598.

These were the figures that former chief spin doctor Murray Foote misled the media n before resigning. He has now been appointed SNP chief executive to replace Peter Murrell, Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, who quit and was arrested by police. He was later released without charge.

Commenting, Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie, pictured right,  said: “The financial chaos now engulfing the SNP goes to show how little the governing party can be trusted with Scotland’s finances.

“The fact is that the SNP is a party in utter disarray – with Scots looking on in disbelief as Humza Yousaf and his lieutenants desperately try to keep this sinking ship afloat.

“From police investigations to empty bank accounts, the SNP’s credibility is shot to pieces.  It’s time for a fresh start with Scottish Labour.”

The official SNP accounts were published on Thursday morning by the Electoral Commission and highlighted pressing financial issues within the nationalist group. Such was the cash strain, it was forced to dip into its reserves which are now negative at minus £219,629.

It means that the SNP may struggle to pay for the upcoming general election which will be held next year as they need to return to a financial surplus. National treasurer Stuart McDonald claimed that the cost of living crisis was behind cancelled memberships and admitted the party was facing ”challenges and uncertainty”.

The SNP have been under investigation by police over an allegedly missing £660,000 of ring-fenced independence referendum cash, and there is no sign of that money in the accounts, as they have £46,039 cash in hand or in the bank, which fell from £144,975 in 2021.

And there is no sign of the referendum appeal in the accounts either despite it being in last year’s books. It said that £740,822 had been raised in donations for another Independence vote, with £235,335 being spent of the £505,487 remaining “earmarked” for independence related campaigning. But this has been removed in 2022.

Nicola Sturgeon with husband and ex-SNP chief executive Peter Murrell.

Officials have been forced to pay for legal costs relating to this probe, which is looking at alleged embezzlement and fraud, with £178,789 being spent on legal fees.

And former chief executive Mr Murrell is still owed £60,000 after he gave them a £107,000 loan in July 2021 to help with cash flow.

The accounts show that the SNP recorded back-to-back deficits for the first time since the independence referendum as they ended up £732,072 in the red in 2021 and £804,278 in 2022.

Political parties do often record large deficits in the past but these are mainly to do with elections which rack up campaign costs. The SNP ended 2016 with a bigger deficit as they went £1.3m in the red, but 2022 is its second highest debt.

In his report on the accounts, Mr McDonald said: “Overall membership payments decreased by 9% during 2022. Public concern about the economy and job security has understandably impacted on membership income in 2022, with the soaring costs of living being given as the reason for cancelling or lowering membership payments.

Stuart McDonald is the new SNP treasurer
Stuart McDonald is the new SNP treasurer (Image: ParliamentTV)

“Like every membership organisation today, we face challenges and uncertainty in the face of rising inflation and the cost of living crisis which impacts on our members.”

The accounts also came with a warning from auditors AMS who reported that they could not give its 100 per cent backing to them because they could not find original documentation to go alongside some cheques and cash which related to membership, donations and raffle incomes.

They added: “We have been unable to satisfy ourselves by alternative means regarding the completeness of income in respect of the above limitation in scope. Consequently we are unable to determine whether any adjustment to income is necessary in the current or prior year and the potential impact on opening reserves accordingly.”

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