John Swinney has denied any knowledge of a police probe into the SNP’s finances after the party’s treasurer quit over a lack of “transparency”.
Douglas Chapman, the MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, announced his departure from the finance role on social media on Saturday night, claiming he had not received sufficient “support”.
Appearing on The Sunday Show on BBC Scotland, Mr Swinney was quizzed on the resignation, and was asked if the police were investigating the party’s handling of £600,000 of funds raised by activists and campaigners for a second independence referendum.
“Not to my knowledge, no,” said the deputy first minister.
A police spokeswoman later said: “The complaint is still being assessed to determine if an investigation is required.”
Mr Swinney also defended the oversight of the SNP’s accounts in the wake of Mr Chapman’s resignation,
The Perthshire North MSP said: “I don’t understand quite what has prompted this.
“Obviously our National Executive Committee has responsibility for scrutinising the party’s finances, and I saw that point was confirmed on social media last night.
“And in addition to that, the accounts of the party are independently audited by external auditors and are submitted to the Electoral Commission for scrutiny, so there is a huge amount of scrutiny of party finances that goes on – that happens daily within the SNP and so it should.”
I don’t understand quite what has prompted this.”
Mr Chapman succeeded Colin Beattie in the treasurer role last year.
Announcing his resignation, he said: “Despite having a resounding mandate from members to introduce more transparency into the party’s finances, I have not received the support or financial information to carry out the fiduciary duties of National Treasurer.
“Regretfully I have resigned with immediate effect. I do not intend to make a further statement on this issue.”
I do not intend to make a further statement on this issue. 2/2
— Douglas Chapman MP 🏴 (@DougChapmanSNP) May 29, 2021
SNP Business Convener Kirsten Oswald issued a statement responding to the claims.
She said: “I am disappointed by Douglas’ decision and, as business convener, fundamentally disagree with his assessment of the support and financial information available to him.”
My statement following Douglas Chapman's decision to stand down as National Treasurer: pic.twitter.com/6GkMDiD6we
— Kirsten Oswald MP (@kirstenoswald) May 29, 2021
Scottish Labour’s deputy leader Jackie Baillie seized on the dispute, saying: “Douglas Chapman’s extraordinary resignation makes it essential that the SNP are open about the growing number of questions about their finances.
“Earlier this year the party was placed under police investigation for a £600,000 black hole in their finances, launched after three members of their finance and audit committee resigned.
There are clearly issues that need to be looked at within the secretive inner workings and inner circle that runs the SNP.”
“There are clearly issues that need to be looked at within the secretive inner workings and inner circle that runs the SNP.
“Nicola Sturgeon must agree to open the party’s books to public scrutiny so investigators can get to the bottom of this mess.”
Scottish Conservative chief whip Stephen Kerr said: “It speaks volumes that even the SNP’s national treasurer can’t get the party to open the books.
“There are obvious questions the leadership have yet to answer for members and even their own politicians.
“But even simple pleas for transparency have further opened up the rift between the nationalists.”