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by Louise Wilson
17 May 2023
Scottish Tories call for parliamentary probe into SNP police investigation

Police at the home of Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell

Scottish Tories call for parliamentary probe into SNP police investigation

The Scottish Conservatives are calling for a parliamentary inquiry to be launched into the investigation of the SNP’s finances.

Chief whip Alexander Burnett has written to Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone to request a new committee be established for this purpose.

He argued an inquiry would help “establish the facts and give the public the answers that they deserve”.

Police Scotland has been investigating the SNP’s finances since 2021, most recently resulting in the arrest of former chief executive Peter Murrell and former national treasurer Colin Beattie.

Both men were released without charge as inquiries continue.

Murrell’s home – which he shares with former first minister Nicola Sturgeon – was also searched.

A Freedom of Information release obtained by the Scottish Sun revealed the search warrant for that had taken two weeks to be approved.

The application was submitted on 20 March and was granted on 3 April – after the SNP’s leadership contest had concluded.

First Minister and SNP leader Humza Yousaf this morning told the BBC’s Today programme that while he has no say in the operation of the Crown Office, he did not believe it makes decisions “based on election contests or politics”.

Asked if it was normal for such applications to take two weeks, he said: “That would be a question for the Crown, not questions for government or ministers or the first minister. I don’t believe that there would be any particular reason out of the ordinary that it would take that time.”

The Scottish Conservatives have said the Lord Advocate – who both leads the Crown Office and is a member of the Scottish Government – is “hamstrung by her conflict of interest”.

Yousaf said the Lord Advocate would recuse herself from any investigation involving politicians.

Burnett said: “I urge fellow MSPs alongside me on the parliament’s business bureau to back my calls for this new committee to give the public confidence that the whole truth around this increasingly murky affair involving Scotland’s ruling party will be laid bare once and for all.”

If such a move is backed by the parliament’s business bureau, it would not be the first time a committee has been set up whilst criminal investigations are ongoing.

The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints was established in the last session of parliament while criminal proceedings against former first minister Alex Salmond were underway. Salmond was ultimately cleared of all charges.

The parliament committee did not begin its deliberations until after the criminal proceedings had ended. It is expected an inquiry into the current police investigation would take a similar approach.

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