The firm that audits the SNP resigned six months ago and Humza Yousaf did not know until he became the party’s leader in March, it has emerged.
Last week, it was revealed that accountants Johnston Carmichael quit after reviewing its client portfolio and existing resources and commitments.
The revelation came as the party’s former chief executive – and Nicola Sturgeon’s husband – Peter Murrell was arrested by Police Scotland before being released without charge.
But on Tuesday, the new First Minster said the auditors had quit last year, something Yousaf did not know until he won the SNP leadership contest on March 27.
“They resigned last year,” he told journalists at an event in Leith. “I think it was in and about October last year.
“But the fact that we don’t have auditors in place is one of the major priorities.
“You can imagine when I found that out, being the party leader, the party is quickly looking to secure another auditor.”
He added: “It’s certainly problematic, I won’t deny that at all.”
Asked if his party would be able to meet the July 7 deadline for submitting its 2022 annual accounts to the Electoral Commission, the First Minister said: “We’re working very hard to do that. It’s one of the significant priorities.
“When I learned about the fact that we don’t have an auditor in place of course I instructed the party to get on with finding another auditor.
“So we are working very hard to do that.”
The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK
Political parties must send the Electoral Commission their annual accounts.
Political parties with income or expenditure of more than £250,000 are required by law to independently audit their accounts and include this report in their submission.
It comes as the SNP faces an investigation by Police Scotland into its funding and finances.
Last week, Sturgeon and Murrell’s home in Uddingston was searched over the course of two days. The SNP headquarters in Edinburgh was also searched.
Days later, it was revealed that police had seized a luxury campervan in Fife, estimated to cost around £110,000.
The police probe is investigating how £600,000 of funding raised by the SNP for campaigning has been spent.
On Tuesday, Yousaf also confirmed that Murrell has not been suspended from the SNP.
He told ITV Border: “I operate on the premise that people are innocent until proven guilty.
“He’s obviously been questioned, as we know, under caution.”
But the First Minster said the SNP won’t be paying his legal fees.
“He’s no longer chief executive of the party,” he said.
“I’ll be castigated I’m sure if we pay his legal fees and castigated if we don’t pay his legal fees.
“So we’ve taken the decision as a party not to pay those legal fees given he’s not chief executive of the party.
“I think that’s pretty reasonable.”
Following the arrest of Murrell, there were calls from some within the SNP for the party’s leadership election to be rerun.
Asked if the detention of the SNP’s former chief executive had undermined the legitimacy of the party’s leadership contest, Yousaf told STV News: “I don’t think so at all actually.
“In fact, we had a good six-week campaign. We travelled up and down the country. We had many TV debates, many hustings.
“People got to hear all three candidates and got to make their decisions on those hustings.
“I’m very confident that the party will unite. I’ve got no doubt about that.
“These are challenging times for the party but in fact we are not going to deliver independence if we simply navel gaze.
“What we’ve got to do is deliver on the priorities of the people out there and that’s what I’m determined to do.”