FMQs: what did Humza Yousaf say about SNP finances and Peter Murrell loan - Holyrood protesters explained
New First Minister Humza Yousaf fielded question over whether the SNP still owed the former chief executive Peter Murrell a repayment for a loan
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Humza Yousaf has admitted that the SNP still owes former chief executive Peter Murrell money, but insisted that the party was "not facing bankruptcy".
The new First Minister came under fire during the First Minister's Questions (FMQs) as his party remains in the headlines over the police investigation into finances. It comes after the arrest and release of Murrell and former treasurer Colin Beattie.
It was reported that Murrell had given the party a personal loan of £107,620 in June 2021. The First Minister confirmed that the party was still to fully repay the loan.
Yousaf, who is temporarily overseeing the finances of the party after Beattie stepped down, defended the SNP's financial status, telling reporters outside the Holyrood session: “We’re definitely not facing bankruptcy, I’m pleased to say we are on a steady footing when it comes to the party’s finances. I don’t think Parliament is the place to do a statement on the party’s finances.
“I’ve, of course, instructed the governance and transparency review and when the report comes in on that review, I’ll make that public.”
His FMQs were no less drama-filled as protesters once again disrupted proceedings. Protests in the public gallery have become common place in the past few months.
What happened during FMQs?
Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, pushing Yousaf to make a statement on the current financial situation, but was restricted from speaking about certain details due to the ongoing police investigation. He urged the First Minister to talk about the "financial scandal" currently engulfing the ruling party, as well as questioning whether Yousaf was now "compromised" by overseeing the financials.
Yousaf said that he would not be making any statements in the chamber on the SNP's finance situation, but continued to field questions from opponents. He said: “I’m happy to answer the question. I know there are some, of course, serious issues for the party that lead, the SNP, to address. I’m not going to shy away away from that, Presiding Officer, and that’s why as my very first act as SNP leader attending my very first national executive committee meeting, I’m pleased that we got agreement from that committee, the elected body that oversees the party that has been elected by our members, to do a review into transparency and governance.”
Ross rebutted: “The first words from the First Minister were that he was happy to answer the question, and then basically refused to do so. Because I was simply asking for a statement and transparency and I do think it is needed from the First Minister because the secrecy must end.”
Their exchange came after protesters were ejected from the chamber during the first few minutes of the session.
What happened during the protest?
Demonstrators from the climate activist group This Is Rigged cause disruption both inside and outside of the chamber. Protesters were ejected minutes into the session in the public chamber.
Two protesters also mounted a wooden beam in the waiting area for the public gallery outside the chamber. One demonstrator said: “We have to stand up and demand action now. We’re here today because we have a really simple question.
“All we want is for the Scottish Parliament to oppose new oil and gas projects like they did with Stop Cambo. All we need is a statement. They are not providing a fully-funded just transition for Scotland’s oil workers.
“They talk about it and talk about it but there is no concrete action. We need action and we need action now.”
The Scottish parliament has began to crack down on protests within the public gallery after a run of incidents in the past few months. A new measure introduced included the requirement to book in advance for a space in the public gallery, with information including name and address needed to complete the booking.
Identification must be shown to collect a ticket, and those arriving in groups, all must give information instead of just a lead booker. Those going into the public gallery must also store electronic equipment in lockers before heading in.
Those involved in the protests on Wednesday 20 April have all been given a six-month ban from the Scottish Parliament, officials have confirmed. Police Scotland confirmed that no arrests were made and the demonstrators all left peacefully.