The SNP’s Westminster group could miss out on more than £1m if it fails to file accounts by the end of May, MP Stephen Flynn has warned.
Flynn, who took over the role of SNP leader at Westminster following the resignation of Ian Blackford, said the party is doing “everything possible” to meet the deadline of May 31 but admitted finding auditors is proving difficult.
The Aberdeen South MP also said he only became aware of the lack of auditors on February 10, despite becoming the group’s leader in December.
Separate accounts need to be submitted for the Westminster group in order to receive “short money” – public funding for opposition parties to carry out their parliamentary work.
The SNP as a whole is also currently lacking auditors, meaning the Electoral Commission could take action if accounts are not submitted on time.
Political parties must send the Electoral Commission their annual accounts.
On Tuesday, April 11, Humza Yousaf revealed accountants Johnston Carmichael had quit in October after reviewing its client portfolio and existing resources and commitments.
It was later clarified that they stood down in September.
The party has said it has approached a number of auditors in the last seven months but has had no success due to “capacity issues” within the sector.
It comes amid the ongoing police investigation into the SNP’s finances, which saw its former chief executive Peter Murrell and treasurer Colin Beattie arrested earlier this month.
Both men were released without charge pending further inquiry.
Flynn was asked about the Westminster group’s difficulty in finding auditors as he appeared on the Good Morning Scotland radio programme.
The MP admitted it was “not straight forward” due to the financial year nearing its end as well as the overall challenges in the party’s finances.
He said: “I thought it would be a relatively straightforward process to go and secure new auditors. That’s obviously proven not to be the case.”
“We need to have our accounts for short money in place by May 31, I believe.
“So every effort that can be made to ensure that happens is being made and of course we’re in contact with the House of Commons authorities meantime in relation to it.”
He said he understands that the SNP will miss out on around £1.2m short money if accounts are not submitted by this deadline, describing it as a “situation which is in a state of flux”.
Flynn continued: “I wouldn’t want to incur any concern amongst staff that we aren’t going to be able to meet our deadlines.
“We’re doing everything possible to ensure that that is the case.”
It was put to him that his predecessor, Ian Blackford, had said that all “relevant information” was handed over to the new leader during the changeover in December.
Flynn said: “There may well have been discussions between other people but certainly, in relation to myself, I became fully aware of the situation on February 10.”
Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy MSP, said: “This jaw-dropping revelation by Stephen Flynn raises more serious questions about the culture of secrecy at the heart of the SNP.
“It is astonishing that it took more than two months for Stephen Flynn to be informed of his party’s auditors quitting after he took over from Ian Blackford.
“Ian Blackford has serious and urgent questions to answer over why Stephen Flynn wasn’t told sooner about this – especially when he previously insisted all relevant information was passed when the Westminster leadership changed hands. He cannot attempt to cloak these in secrecy as the party has been doing on key questions for far too long.
“The SNP are in total meltdown and the public deserve answers over the increasingly murky situation surrounding their finances.
“Ordinary SNP staff – who could ultimately lose their jobs as a result – will be deeply alarmed that Flynn could also not give any guarantees that new auditors will be in place for crucial reporting deadlines next month, once again contradicting Ian Blackford’s assurances.
“The real priorities of Scotland, such as the cost-of-living crisis and fixing our NHS, are being ignored as the SNP lurch from scandal to scandal. How can they hope run a government and serve the country when each and every day they are distracted by the chaos engulfing the party.”