July 22, 2024

SNP could face investigation into loans from Peter Murrell

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Peter Murrell resigned as SNP chief executive in March 2023

The SNP could face another probe into its finances after taking five years to declare thousands of pounds in loans from its former chief executive.

The Electoral Commission said the party received two loans totalling £15,000 from Peter Murrell in 2018, but did not notify the watchdog until last year.

It said it could consider enforcement action.

Mr Murrell was arrested and released without charge last year as part of a police investigation into SNP finances.

The probe, codenamed Operation Branchform, is ongoing.

Ex-First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who is married to Mr Murrell, was also arrested along with former SNP treasurer Colin Beattie as part of the inquiry before later being released without charge pending further investigation.

The Electoral Commission said the SNP reported to it in October that Mr Murrell – who resigned as chief executive in April last year following a row about membership figures – had made two loan payments to the party in 2018.

The commission said these loans should have been reported the year they were made.

Each loan was for £7,500. One was paid back within two days, while the other was paid back within two weeks.

The commission said it may consider the late reporting of the loans in line with its enforcement policy, once the police investigation has concluded.

According to the latest accounts, the party still owes Mr Murrell £60,000 from a loan payment of £107,620 in June 2021 – half of which was repaid by October of that year.

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Nicola Sturgeon has said she will co-operate fully with the police investigation

UK political parties are required to submit quarterly records of donations and loans to the Electoral Commission.

Prior to this year, when the thresholds were raised, parties were obliged to report donations higher than £7,500.

Smaller donations from a single donor which exceed the reporting threshold when taken together also needed to be reported.

SNP accounts published in August showed the party made a loss of more than £800,000 last year after its income and membership dropped.

What is Operation Branchform?

Police launched a formal investigation into the party’s finances in July 2021 after receiving complaints about how more than £600,000 of donations for an independence referendum campaign had been used.

No-one has been charged by police and the party has vowed to co-operate fully with the investigation.

Ms Sturgeon, Mr Murrell and Mr Beattie were the three signatories on the SNP’s accounts

Following her arrest, Ms Sturgeon said she would fully co-operate with the investigation and was certain she had done nothing wrong.

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