Humza Yousaf vows ‘no interference’ into police probe of SNP finances

Friday marks a year since the first of three high-profile arrests of key SNP figures during Police Scotland's Operation Branchform investigation.

Humza Yousaf has vowed not to interfere with the ongoing police investigation into the SNP’s finances.

The First Minister spoke about Operation Branchform ahead of Friday which marks a year since officers arrested Nicola Sturgeon’s husband – the party’s former chief executive – before launching a search on the couple’s home in Uddingston as well as the party’s HQ in Edinburgh.

“No one is going to interfere in that investigation,” Yousaf said. “Police investigations should be allowed to take place without any political interference whatsoever.”

Adding the probe will “take as long as the investigation takes”, the FM said: “There are always challenges, circumstances like this. That’s not what I’m focused on.”

Operation Branchfrom has led to three high-profile arrests of key SNP figures and Nicola Sturgeon's home being searched.STV News

Despite the ongoing inquiry, which was launched in 2021, the FM told STV News that his party is “financially fit” to fight the upcoming general election one year on from the first in a series of arrests that rocked the SNP.

Following Murrell’s arrest on April 5, 2023, the home he shares with Sturgeon was subject to a raid, with police tape stretched around the property and large tents erected in the garden, making headlines throughout the UK.

Yousaf had been First Minister for a little over a week, having won the SNP leadership contest at the end of March.

The SNP revealed it lost around 30,000 members in 2021 and 2022 and announced its auditors had resigned last year.

When it did publish its accounts, it showed the party was in a £800,000 deficit – its worst ever in a non-election year.

And it was revealed in December that the SNP reported zero donations throughout nearly the entire summer.

The issues had cast doubts on the health of the party’s finances.

Questioned by STV News on Thursday, the FM refused to be drawn on the probe.

“It’s for the police to determine how long the operation and the investigation will take,” he said.

“From my perspective, what I’ve been concentrating on in the year is delivering on the priorities of the people of Scotland and in that year we’ve seen modelling showing that an estimated 100,000 children will be lifted out of poverty.

“We’ve had a national council tax freeze now implemented. We’ve got, of course, record numbers of junior doctors joining the NHS.

“So we’re concentrating on delivering on what the priorities of the people of Scotland and the police will take as long as they necessarily need in terms of this investigation.”

Yousaf said he had sought to “make sure the party is in a very solid foundation” to go into the looming general election.

He added: “And I’m pleased to say that we are in a good position, financially fit and healthy in order to fight that general election, whenever it may be.”

Rishi Sunak is expected to call a UK-wide ballot sometime this year.

Speaking to STV News last week, Professor Sir John Curtice said Operation Branchform still poses an issue to the SNP and its ability to raise money.

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