Yousaf: Leader would expect to know about membership and party finances

It comes as questions about the SNP's finances continued to be raised amid a hunt for a new accountancy firm to audit the party's books.

Humza Yousaf has said he would expect the leader of the SNP to have known about issues around membership numbers, finances and the party’s auditors quitting.

Interviewed while visiting a community centre in Dundee, the First Minister said that reports of money troubles were “suggestions and rumours in the political bubble”.

“We are on a steady footing but there’s not doubt at all that I want to make sure our finances are on as firm a footing as possible,” he told STV’s political editor Colin Mackay.

“I think we could have done more around transparency, there’s no getting away from that, the membership number is a great example, we should have been far more upfront and transparent around the membership number, that’s a debacle,” he said.

Asked if he would expect the leader to know about the state of membership, lost auditors, and a police inquiry into the party’s finances, Yousaf said: “You would expect to know I would have imagined, yes, about most of that.”

But asked if his predecessor Nicola Sturgeon should have known about it he responded: “That’s for Nicola to answer what she knew and did not know.”

He added: “I know what my expectations are. My expectations as party leader are to know about issues around membership numbers, around the party’s finances.

“I can’t speak for what Nicola knew.”

In March, Sturgeon said she was not aware that the party had lost nearly a third of its membership over two years.

It comes as questions about the SNP’s finances continued to be raised amid a hunt for a new accountancy firm to audit the party’s books in time for the Electoral Commission’s deadline of July 7.

Last week, Yousaf revealed Johnston Carmichael had quit six months ago in September after reviewing its client portfolio and existing resources and commitments.

He only found out about the resignation of the firm after being elected as party leader, he said.

The First Minister was speaking after a video emerged that appears to show Sturgeon playing down concerns about the SNP’s finances in a virtual meeting of the party’s ruling body on March 20, 2021.

The meeting was held just months before Police Scotland began its investigation – named Operation Branchform – into the party’s funding and finances.

The then-SNP leader is heard telling members the party’s finances have “never been stronger”.

She warned those in the meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the impact going public with their concerns could have on donors.

“I’ve been on this body when the party has frankly been teetering on the edge of bankruptcy,” she said.

“The party has never been in a stronger financial position than it is right now and that’s a reflection of our strength and our membership.

“So, just a bit of context for us all to remember.”

The SNP’s NEC has agreed to hold a governance and transparency review.

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