Sooner SNP probe is done the better for everyone, says police chief

Sir Iain Livingstone said an end to the investigation would clarify 'evidence and facts' over 'rumours and innuendo'.

Sooner SNP probe is done the better for everyone, says Police Scotland chief Iain Livingstone Getty Images

The head of Police Scotland has said the sooner the investigation into the SNP’s finances is done “the better for everyone involved”.

Sir Iain Livingstone, who is set to retire next week, said a conclusion to the long-standing probe would ensure “evidence and facts” are listened to over “rumours and innuendo”.

The police investigation into the SNP – dubbed Operation Branchform – is looking into how £600,000 of crowdfunding cash for independence campaigning was spent.

Earlier this year, former party chief executive Peter Murrell, then party treasurer Colin Beattie and former first minister Nicola Sturgeon were arrested in relation to the probe, all being released without charge pending further investigation.

Sir Iain Livingstone said the Police Scotland investigation into the SNP has not been impacted by politics.STV News

The arrest of Murrell also resulted in a search of the home he shares with Sturgeon near Glasgow.

Speaking to the BBC, Livingstone said: “We are duty bound to investigate matters if they are reported to us.

“Our action and our investigation is in the interests of everybody involved because it will clarify facts and deal with evidence and facts as opposed to rumour and innuendo.

“So the sooner this investigation is concluded, the better for everyone involved.”

The chief constable said the investigation has not been have not been impacted by politics.

“These are difficult challenges but I would fiercely reject any sense that I, as an individual, am motivated through any political perspective,” he said.

“I am not. Not for a second. My priorities are the rule of law and public safety.”

He said the ongoing probe had not impacted his relationship with the Scottish Government.

Ministers at Holyrood, he said, “recognise the operational independence of the chief constable”.

“I would rightly be criticised if I hadn’t conducted this investigation with the rigour that we are doing because I would have been seen as neglecting my duty,” he said. “That has not happened.”

Livingstone will step down next week and will be replaced by Jo Farrell, who is the current chief constable of Durham Constabulary.

She will become Police Scotland’s first female chief constable.

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