A video has emerged that appears to show Nicola Sturgeon playing down concerns about the SNP’s finances.
The leaked footage, published by the Sunday Mail, is reportedly from 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 former SNP leader is filmed telling members that the party’s finances have “never been stronger”.
She warns those in the meeting of the national executive committee (NEC) of the impact going public with their concerns could have on donors.
Sturgeon said: “I’ve been on this body continuously for 20 years or so.
“I’ve been on this body when the party has frankly been teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.
“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.”
Sturgeon warned NEC members about raising concerns about the party’s finances.
She said: “Just be very careful about suggestions that there are problems with the party’s finances because we depend on donors to donate.
“There is no reason for people to be concerned about the party’s finances and all of us need to be careful about suggesting that there is.”
The former SNP leader, who appears to have been filmed without her knowledge, warned the NEC against leaks.
She said that could limit its ability for “open, free and frank discussion”.
Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy said the timing of Sturgeon’s claims was “frankly astonishing”.
He said: “The shocking lack of transparency among the toxic clique at the top of the SNP is what has got the party in its current mess.
“If Humza Yousaf wants to show he’s determined to tackle the crisis within the SNP, he should suspend the party membership of Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said Sturgeon’s remarks “fly in the face” of openness and transparency.
“We are now entering the third week of this terminal SNP soap opera,” he said. “Peoples’ priorities around health, around education, around heating their homes are playing second fiddle to one of the biggest sideshows in Scottish political history.
“The antics inside the SNP high command put some of the worst excesses of Tory sleaze in the shade.
“It’s time for the SNP to come clean and put all this to bed, so that we can get on with combating the cost-of-living crisis, the NHS emergency and bridging a poverty gap that the nationalists have left to stagnate during their time in office.”
Sturgeon and the SNP have been approached for comment.
According to the Sunday Mail, Sturgeon was speaking after three senior officials had just announced their intention to resign from the party’s finances audit committee after being denied sight of accounts.
The newspaper lists Edinburgh Lord Provost Frank Ross, Allison Graham and Cynthia Guthrie as those saying they will quit.
Later that year, SNP national treasurer Douglas Chapman and MP Joanna Cherry would both resign from the NEC over concerns around transparency.
The meeting was held a few days before the first complaint was made to the police over the party’s finances.
That was over concerns surrounding around £667,000 of funds raised for independence campaigning.
It’s the same investigation that led to the arrest and release of Peter Murrell, as well as his home, which he shares with his wife Sturgeon.
Just three months after the footage of Sturgeon was taken Murrell loaned the SNP £107,620 to help it out with “cash flow” problems.
SNP leader Humza Yousaf previously admitted there are issues with transparency in the party.
On Saturday, the First Minister said the NEC had agreed to hold a governance and transparency review.
Speaking after the meeting, he said: “We will ensure we have external input, particularly around the issues of financial oversight.
“So, that may well be forensic accountants, it may well be some other means and method – but I think around the additional financial oversight, external input is really important.”
He said an interim report on the review is expected in June, with a full report due in autumn and the latter will be made public.”