Finding an auditor to process the SNP’s accounts in time to meet the May 31 deadline will be “challenging”, Humza Yousaf has said.
The First Minister’s comments came after Stephen Flynn MP, the head of the SNP’s Westminster group, warned the party could miss out on more than £1m if it fails to file accounts by the end of May.
In an interview with the BBC on Monday, Yousaf said he is “going to work towards meeting the deadline”.
He said: “It’ll be challenging. I won’t pretend otherwise.
“There is the ability to ask for an extension if required. We’re not in that space yet.”
On Tuesday, April 11, Humza Yousaf revealed accountants Johnston Carmichael had quit in October – something he did not know until he won the SNP leadership contest on March 27.
The First Minister stressed that finding auditors was one of his “major priorities”.
Flynn, who took over the role of SNP leader at Westminster following the resignation of Ian Blackford, said the party is doing “everything possible” to meet the deadline of May 31 but admitted finding auditors is proving difficult.
The Aberdeen South MP also said he only became aware of the lack of auditors on February 10, despite becoming the group’s leader in December.
Separate accounts need to be submitted for the Westminster group in order to receive “short money” – public funding for opposition parties to carry out their parliamentary work.
The SNP as a whole is also currently lacking auditors, meaning the Electoral Commission could take action if accounts are not submitted on time.
Political parties must send the Electoral Commission their annual accounts.
The party has said it has approached a number of auditors in the last seven months but has had no success due to “capacity issues” within the sector.
It comes amid the ongoing police investigation into the SNP’s finances, which saw its former chief executive Peter Murrell and treasurer Colin Beattie arrested earlier this month.
Both men were released without charge pending further inquiry.
Flynn was asked about the Westminster group’s difficulty in finding auditors as he appeared on the Good Morning Scotland radio programme.
The MP admitted it was “not straight forward” due to the financial year nearing its end as well as the overall challenges in the party’s finances.
He said: “I thought it would be a relatively straightforward process to go and secure new auditors. That’s obviously proven not to be the case.”
“We need to have our accounts for short money in place by May 31, I believe.
“So every effort that can be made to ensure that happens is being made and of course we’re in contact with the House of Commons authorities meantime in relation to it.”