Nicola Sturgeon’s shock resignation cost her beloved SNP £160k

The former First Minister quit unexpectedly in February sparking an expensive leadership contest which caused the party’s already creaking coffers even more strain

Nicola Sturgeon resigned as first minister in February
Nicola Sturgeon resigned as first minister in February.

By Lucy Ashton

Nicola Sturgeon’s shock resignation as SNP leader cost her beloved party about £160k which plunged the nationalists into even more financial disarray.

The 2022 accounts for the SNP were published last week and revealed that they were £800k in debt amid plummeting membership figures.

And now a leaked agenda from the party’s National Council meeting in Perth on Sunday has shown that the costs of the leadership contest to replace Ms Sturgeon ran up a huge bill for an already struggling political entity.

Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan toured Scotland to battle it out to be the next First Minister.

Wings Over Scotland reported that SP Treasurer Stuart McDonald revealed the eye-watering sum which was spent on the battle, with £160k being utilised from the creaking nationalist coffers. He wrote: “The first half of 2023 was not without challenges. The overall cost of the leadership election was around £160k, none of which was budgeted for.”

Ms Sturgeon quit unexpectedly as First Minister as she claimed that she wanted to return to a normal life and that no current pressure had led to her leaving. However, just two months later her husband Peter Murrell was arrested in connection with Operation Branchform, with her arrest following later in June.

He also admitted that income for the year had been affected by the plunging membership numbers with 30,000 Scexit supporters abandoning the SNP in the last year and a half. The position on June 29 was 73,936 which is a huge drop on 103,884 at the end of 2021.

Mr McDonald added: “Membership income has been hit by the overall fall in membership numbers (73,936 as at 29th June), while the cost of living crisis has also impacted on the level of membership payments. However, looking ahead, the position is significantly more positive.

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

“There will continue to be concerted action to raise money to back Katy Loudon to win Rutherglen and Hamilton West. And of course, the second half of the year includes the St Andrew’s draw and dinner, as well as conference income.

“While making predictions is not always wise, I remain confident our 2023 accounts will show a surplus as we build towards what will be a crucial general election year. We still have much work to do to ensure we put the party on the soundest financial footing possible.”

Other revelations from the leaked agenda included the fact the SNP are looking to recruit a part-time accountant to help them “rebuild trust in the processes and procedures that are in place to ensure proper financial management of our party.”

Mr Yousaf promised to reset governance in the party after the Ms Sturgeon and Peter Murrell reign which saw a police probe launched into misuse of funds.

Operation Branchform is still ongoing as cops probe an allegedly missing £660k of ring-fenced independence referendum funds which the party allegedly spent on other things. This was also missing from their latest set of accounts.

The SNP’s accounts showed that they recorded back-to-back deficits for the first time since 2014’s Scexit vote as they ended up £732,072 in the red in 2021 and £804,278 in 2022.

Membership income slumped from £2,516,854 in 2021 to £2,286,944 in 2022, while reportable donations fell from £695,351 to £368,538. And the party dug into its accumulated reserves which fell from £584,649 to minus £219,629.

The SNP have been approached for comment.

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