Nicola Sturgeon has branded Nadim Zahawi’s position as Conservative Party chairman “untenable” amid serious questions over his tax affairs.
The First Minister called on Rishi Sunak to sack the former chancellor if he fails to stand down after it emerged Zahawi paid a penalty to HMRC for unpaid tax while in Number 11.
An independent ethics advisor, Sir Laurie Magnus, is now investigating the reports after the Prime Minister admitted there were “clearly questions that need answering”.
But Sturgeon joined Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in calling for Zahawi to quit regardless of the outcome of the probe.
“The former chancellor’s position is untenable. I think he should resign his current position as chair of the Conservative Party,” she told a media briefing in Edinburgh.
“It seems to be the case – and I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong here – but I think this is now beyond any real question that while he was chancellor he settled a seven-figure tax bill with HMRC, which included a very significant penalty.
“Now that means, as far as I can see, that there must have been something untoward about his tax affairs to a very large tune in terms of the amount of money involved.”
“He should resign his post and if he doesn’t do so, rather that kicking it into the long grass and instructing an inquiry as the Prime Minister has done this morning, I think the Prime Minister should remove him from office.”
Zahawi was understood to have paid a penalty – reported by The Guardian to be around 30% – during the time he was chancellor under Boris Johnson between July and September.
In a statement, Zahawi said he “welcomed” the investigation.
“I look forward to explaining the facts of this issue to Sir Laurie Magnus and his team,” he said.
“I am confident I acted properly throughout and look forward to answering any and all specific questions in a formal setting to Sir Laurie.
“In order to ensure the independence of this process, you will understand that it would be inappropriate to discuss this issue any further, as I continue my duties as chairman of the Conservative and Unionist Party.”