Colin Beattie: The discreet SNP treasurer arrested in finance probe

Former international banker taken into custody as police continue investigation into finances of Scotland's governing party.

Colin Beattie profile: The discreet SNP treasurer arrested by Police Scotland in finance probe Getty Images

Colin Beattie, the SNP’s treasurer, has been arrested by police investigating the party’s finances.

The 71-year-old is the second senior SNP figure to be taken into custody after Peter Murrell – the former chief executive and Nicola Sturgeon’s husband.

But how much do you know about one of the less prominent members of Scotland’s ruling party?

Former international banker

Beattie has been an MSP since 2011, having previously been an international banker for more than 20 years.

Born in the Angus town of Forfar in 1951, Beattie grew up to pursue a career in financial services that took him to Asia, the Middle East and London over a period of two decades.

He took early retirement in 2007 to enter politics as a councillor in Midlothian, where he was SNP leader. He became a Holyrood MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh in 2011.

By that time he had been national treasurer for seven years, but his profile within the party didn’t elevate beyond his involvement in its ruling body, the National Executive Committee (NEC).

Ousted by Douglas Chapman in 2020

He was the SNP’s treasurer from 2004 until 2020, when he was ousted by Douglas Chapman.

That move didn’t end well, however, as Chapman resigned in May 2021, saying he “had not received the support or financial information required to carry out the fiduciary duties of national treasurer”.

Beattie took on the treasurer’s role again following Chapman’s departure.

During his 18-year stewardship as SNP treasurer, millions of pounds have been raised from a thriving party membership and rich supporters – many of whom made large donations.

Beattie has never held a ministerial position but is a member of the Public Audit Committee (PAC) in the Scottish Parliament, which has been pushing for greater transparency in public expenditure and in public life.

He is also popular in his Midlothian North and Musselburgh constituency, where he increased his majority by almost 1,000 votes in 2021.

‘Difficulty in balancing the books’

Beattie, who backed Kate Forbes in the recent leadership contest, made a rare foray into the headlines at the weekend when he was quoted in The Sunday Times as telling the NEC meeting on Saturday that the SNP is “having difficulty in balancing the books due to the reduction in membership and donors”.

Former SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said those reports had been “highly selective”, echoing comments by a party spokesman that the quotes were “out of context” and that Beattie had told the NEC the party’s finances are “balanced”.

Blackford said: “Absolutely, categorically, the SNP is solvent, the finances are in balance. We will be able to meet our obligations, our liabilities going forward.

“Everybody knows there has been a dip in SNP membership. I’d like to think that we can grow the membership over the course of the coming period, but when all is said and done, we’ve still got over 70,000 members – members that are paying subscriptions – donations coming in, parliamentarians making contributions.”

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