SNP facing biggest crisis in 50 years, says president

It comes after the firm that audits the Scottish National Party’s finances quit amid Peter Murrell's arrest.

SNP facing biggest crisis in 50 years, says president Getty Images

A senior figure in the SNP has said the party faces its biggest crisis in 50 years amid the police investigation into its finances.

Mike Russell, the SNP president and a former minister, also said he does not think independence can be achieved “right now”.

On Wednesday, former chief executive Peter Murrell was arrested by police investigating the spending of around £600,000 which was earmarked for an independence campaign.

Mr Murrell, who is Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, was released on Wednesday evening without charge pending further investigation.

Police searched their home in Glasgow for more than a day, with uniformed officers also searching the SNP’s headquarters in Edinburgh.

In an interview with The Herald newspaper, Mr Russell said recent weeks had been “wearing” for the SNP, which recently selected Humza Yousaf to succeed Ms Sturgeon as party leader.

He said: “In my 50-year association with the party this is the biggest and most challenging crisis we’ve ever faced, certainly while we’ve been in government.

“But I have an obligation to this party and the movement for Scottish independence that’s been such a massive part of my life for so long.”

He continued: “I don’t think independence can be secured right now; we need to work towards some coordinated campaigning.

“But I think this is achievable. My main focus is how we can create a new Yes movement that allows for different visions but conducted in an atmosphere of mutual trust.”

Mr Russell said there would be a wide-ranging review of the SNP’s governance and transparency.

This was promised by Mr Yousaf, who was sworn in as First Minister last week.

On Friday, it emerged that the accountancy firm which audits the SNP’s finances has resigned after working with the party for a decade.

Accountants Johnston Carmichael informed the party of the decision before Mr Murrell’s arrest.

The party’s treasurer is now seeking another auditor in order to comply with Electoral Commission rules.

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