SNP: Westminster group could miss out on £1.2m funding if deadline missed, as party struggles to find auditors

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The SNP as a whole is currently lacking auditors after its accountancy firm resigned, with police also in the midst of an ongoing investigation into the party's finances

The SNP’s Westminster group could miss out on more than £1 million if it fails to file accounts by the end of May, MP Stephen Flynn has warned.

Flynn, who leads the Scottish National Party (SNP) in the House of Commons, said the party is doing “everything possible” to meet this deadline, but finding auditors for the group is proving difficult. He also revealed that he only became aware of the lack of auditors on 10 February, despite becoming the group’s leader in December.

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The SNP as a whole is currently lacking auditors, after Johnston Carmichael - who had worked with SNP for more than a decade - reported they had resigned as the party’s accountancy firm before former chief executive Peter Murrell and treasurer Colin Beattie were arrested earlier this month.

Both men were released without charge pending further inquiry. The arrests came amid the ongoing police investigation into the SNP’s finances, and the ongoing lack of auditors means the Electoral Commission could take action if accounts are not submitted on time.

Separate accounts need to be submitted for the Westminster group by 31 May in order to receive public funding for opposition parties to carry out their parliamentary work - known as “Short money”.

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn says the Westminster group could miss out on more than £1 million if it fails to file accounts by the end of May. (Credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images)SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn says the Westminster group could miss out on more than £1 million if it fails to file accounts by the end of May. (Credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images)
SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn says the Westminster group could miss out on more than £1 million if it fails to file accounts by the end of May. (Credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images) | Getty Images

On Monday, Flynn was asked about the Westminster group’s difficulty in finding auditors as he appeared on the Good Morning Scotland radio programme. 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.”

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This is partly due to the fact that the financial year is nearing its end as well as the overall challenges in the party’s finances, he said. “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.”

Flynn said he understood that the SNP would miss out on around £1.2 million in Short money if accounts are not submitted by this deadline, describing it as a “situation which is in a state of flux”. He 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.”

The Aberdeen South MP also said he became aware of the group’s lack of auditors on 10 February, when a party official told him so. 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.”

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He said he did not receive the £33,000 salary boost, like former Westminster leader Angus Robertson. Flynn said the salary top-up was “not something which I’m overly surprised about” given the additional responsibilities of the role.

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said it was “jaw-dropping” that Flynn had not known about the lack of auditors before February. He said: “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 said.

“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."

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Hoy added: “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.”

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