SNP chief executive Peter Murrell refused to give members of the party’s Finance and Audit Committee access to the party accounts following a pledge to spend £2.1 million on the upcoming Scottish elections. This publication revealed last month the party’s National Executive Committee has committed £600,000 towards “preparations” for another independence referendum.
A further £1.5m has also been allocated to launch the Nationalists largest-ever Holyrood election campaign, which will include the party’s central message for independence, as Nicola Sturgeon attempts to win another five years in charge.
The £2.1m of funding was signed off last month but the SNP’s National Treasurer Douglas Chapman reaffirmed that amount on Saturday during a meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee.
But the SNP’s Finance and Audit Committee demanded they be shown the books, causing an internal feud.
After some exchanges, Mr Murrell refused the request prompting three members of the Committee to resign, party sources told the Express.
First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, who was present at the meeting, told members Scottish independence would be “at the centre” of the election campaign.
However, a 48 hour period of reckoning looms with James Hamilton QC’s report set to be released on whether she breached the Scottish Government ministerial code.
Ms Sturgeon referred herself after being accused of misleading Parliament over when she knew of harassment complaints against former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond.
She previously said she had been told about the allegations by Mr Salmond himself during a meeting in her home on April 2, 2018.
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One senior party source said: “Nicola is highly respected in the party but this is her day of reckoning with an independent report due to be released.
“I certainly think this will see a lot of eyes roll in the party.”
A second party insider, added: “She has strongly led the party for the last seven years and put confidence in Scots when tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.
“But the next 48 hours will be key, it could certainly change election direction.”
It comes after Scotland’s Constitution Secretary pledged Scottish independence referendum will be held “at the conclusion of the pandemic”.
Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell said that the SNP will publish its referendum bill this week.
In her programme for Government in September 2020, Ms Sturgeon said a draft bill would be published setting out the timescale and potential question for a new referendum in due course.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has previously indicated a referendum could be held towards the end of this year if his party is re-elected at Holyrood in May.
Mr Russell told the BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show that such a vote will be held “when the time is right”.
He was asked whether the referendum bill will have a timeframe and whether it will say an independence referendum will be held by the end of the year.
The MSP replied: “It’s going to say that we will hold an independence referendum when the time is right to hold it and that will be at the conclusion of the pandemic.
“Nobody is suggesting anything else and again that’s been misrepresented and what it’s going to say is something incredibly normal which is that people should have the right to decide their own future, that’s how the world works.”
Last night, the SNP declined to comment on the meeting but a spokesman added: “The issue at the election in May will be this: who has the right to decide what sort of country we should be after the pandemic – the people of Scotland or Boris Johnson?”
Keith Brown, the Nats depute leader added the party’s 12,500 new members that have joined this month shows the SNP is ‘fighting fit’ as it goes into the election campaign.
He added: “At the coming election, the SNP offers a safe, steady, and experienced hand to steer Scotland’s recovery from the pandemic.
“And we’ll offer a better, fairer, more prosperous future for our country with a post-pandemic referendum.”