Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell standing together

Timeline: The SNP finances controversy

The SNP is facing mounting issues after a police probe into its finances led to the arrests of prominent party members. 

Peter Murrell was arrested at the beginning of April. Police searched the home he shares with former first minister Nicola Sturgeon and the party’s headquarters in Edinburgh. SNP treasurer and MSP Colin Beattie was arrested by police weeks later. 

Ferret Fact Service explains the timeline of events.

Ferret Fact Service | Scotland's impartial fact check project

March 2017: Then-first minister Nicola Sturgeon announces plans to pursue a second independence referendum.

March 2017: The SNP launches a website called ref.scot, where supporters could donate as part of a fundraising campaign for the proposed second referendum. The website reportedly raised nearly £500,000 before it was shut down at the general election in June 2017.

June 2017: Scottish Labour’s James Kelly MSP asks the Electoral Commission to investigate the SNP’s fundraising, after suggestions that money donated for a second referendum might have been used for election campaigning instead. The SNP denies this, saying all money was “ringfenced” for a second referendum campaign.

April 2019: The SNP launches a new fundraising push, after Sturgeon announced legislation to prepare for a second referendum in 2021. 

October 2020: The SNP’s financial report is released, and shows the party has less money in cash and reserves than the amount raised in the referendum fundraising campaigns. 

December 2020: Long-time treasurer Colin Beattie is defeated in SNP internal elections by Douglas Chapman, the MP for Dunfermline and West Fife.

March 2021: Three members of the party’s finance committee, Frank Ross, Edinburgh’s Lord Provost, Allison Graham, and Cynthia Guthrie, resign over an alleged lack of access to accounts.

May 2021: SNP treasurer Douglas Chapman MP resigns five months after being elected to replace Colin Beattie, saying he had “not received the support or financial information to carry out the fiduciary duties” of party treasurer. Colin Beattie replaces him. 

June 2021: Colin Beattie announces that some of the £666,953 raised in independence referendum fundraisers had been spent by the party, but that an equivalent to the amount fundraised remained “earmarked” for a future indyref fund. 

July 2021: Police Scotland launches a formal investigation into the SNP’s finances after it received complaints about how donations to the party were used. The probe is looking into the handling of £660,000 raised in referendum fundraisers. 

December 2022: It emerges that Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell, who was long-time SNP chief executive, loaned the party more than £100,000 in June 2021 while it was facing a “cash flow” issue after the 2021 election.

February 2023: Nicola Sturgeon resigns as first minister after eight years in charge. She said that she hoped her successor could be “someone who is not subject to the same polarised opinions, fair or unfair, as I now am”. 

March 2023: Peter Murrell resigns after the SNP gave out misleading information about the size of the party membership during the SNP leadership election. The party revealed that membership had fallen to 72,186, having previously suggested to journalists that reports saying this were wrong. 

The party had been criticised for a lack of transparency after refusing to reveal the number of members eligible to vote in the party’s leadership election. 

March 2023: Humza Yousaf is elected as new leader of the SNP after narrowly defeating rival Kate Forbes, and is later confirmed as first minister of Scotland.

April 2023: Police Scotland announces that Peter Murrell has been arrested and questioned as part of the investigation into the SNP’s finances. Officers also search the home Murrell shares with his partner Nicola Sturgeon. He is later released without charge. 

April 2023: Humza Yousaf reveals that auditors for the SNP had resigned in October 2022.

April 2023: Media reports reveal that Sturgeon told an SNP national executive committee meeting in March 2021 there were “no reasons for people to be concerned about the party’s finances” after queries were raised. 

April 2023: SNP treasurer Colin Beattie is arrested by police as part of the finance probe on the day Humza Yousaf presented his policy priorities as first minister. He was released without charge and announces that he has stepped down from his role as the investigation continues. 

Photo credit: Scottish Government, CC BY 2.0.

2 comments
  1. Nicola must be arrested as she was the third signature on cheques. Nicola says the buck stops with her so she should face the music.

  2. The Midget Queen always has evaded responsibility despite her lofty position within Scottish politics. She has cost the country £bn in over extended timelines with gross over spending in capital projects: trams, ferry’s, bridges, schools, hospitals…if there was the equivalent of a Tower Bridge I’d be asking for her head on a pikestaff.

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