The SNP has been accused of operating under a “veil of secrecy” after it emerged that the party’s chief executive – and husband of Nicola Sturgeon – loaned it more than £100,000 to help with cash flow following the 2021 Holyrood election.
Peter Murrell, who has been the SNP’s chief executive since 1999, gave a loan of £107,620 to the party in June that year following the vote.
The loan was first reported by the Wings over Scotland website on Tuesday.
Instalments of more than £20,000 were paid by the party to Murrell to reimburse him in August and October last year.
However, the Electoral Commission was not notified until August 2022.
The SNP said that the loan had been recorded in its 2021 accounts and was reported at that time to the Commission as a regulated transaction.
In May last year, SNP MP Douglas Chapman resigned as the national treasurer of the party, claiming that he had not been given enough information to do his job.
A spokesperson for the party explained that the transaction was initially not thought to give rise to a reporting obligation.
But, opposition parties at Holyrood have raised concerns over the loan and have called for it to be investigated further.
Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy described it as a “highly unusual move” for Murrell to loan the SNP more than £100,000.
“The role played by Peter Murrell in the SNP grows murkier by the day,” said Hoy.
“It is beyond odd for the SNP chief executive – and Nicola Sturgeon’s husband – to be lending his employer a six-figure sum of money.
“This highly unusual move comes on top of an ongoing police probe into the ‘missing’ £600k of donations.
“This cash was meant to be ring-fenced for another indyref campaign, yet a string of people left senior posts in the party citing a lack of financial transparency.”
He added: “It’s high time the SNP came clean to their own members about what is actually going on and explained why their chief executive is making such large loans to the party his wife leads.”
An SNP spokesperson said: “The loan was reported in our 2021 accounts, which were published by the Electoral Commission in mid-August.
“The nature of this transaction was initially not thought to give rise to a reporting obligation.
“However, as it had been recorded in the party’s 2021 accounts as a loan, it was accordingly then reported to the Electoral Commission as a regulated transaction.
“This was a personal contribution made by the chief executive to assist with cash flow after the Holyrood election.”
Neil Bibby, Scottish Labour’s business manager, insisted that the public “deserve transparency” over the dealings by the party of government.
He said: “This is highly irregular and the First Minister’s part, if any, in providing these loans needs further investigation.
“The saga surrounding the SNP’s finances just keeps getting murkier, from the questions around the notorious £600k to the unexplained resignation of the party’s finance committee.
“The SNP operate under a veil of secrecy and cover-up by default, but the public deserve transparency about the dealings going on in the party of government.”
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