SNP MPs demand 'transparency of Tory donations'... while own party investigated for fraud

Humza Yousaf taking part in the SNP leadership hustings at the Town Hall in Johnstone

Humza Yousaf taking part in the SNP leadership hustings at the Town Hall in Johnstone

Jack Walters

By Jack Walters

Published: 20/07/2023

- 20:43

The Scottish National Party is facing increasing pressure over Police Scotland’s Operation Branchform investigation

Two SNP MPs have today spoken out about having greater transparency in donations made to political parties despite nationalists north of the border facing a criminal probe into how they spent funds raised to cover a second independence referendum.

Glasgow South West MP Chris Stephens and Midlothian MP Owen Thompson discussed donations during a Commons debate on transparency of political donations from overseas.

Their comments come as Police Scotland continues with its Operation Branchform investigation into SNP finances.

Leading SNP figures, including former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, were arrested and released pending further enquiries during the probe.

Nicola SturgeonNicola SturgeonPA

Police Scotland launched its probe two years ago after it was alleged £666,953 raised for the SNP’s second independence referendum was in part improperly spent.

The SNP has consistently denied any wrongdoing but opposition parties have put pressure on Scotland’s largest party to address the matter.

Responding to concerns from SNP MPs in Westminster, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said: "Interesting to hear two SNP MPs ask questions about ‘the transparency of political donations’ in the House of Commons just now.

“Bold choice and pretty sure the glass house they’re in has just been destroyed by their stone throwing.”

Douglas Ross represents the Highlands & Islands as an MSP and Moray as an MPDouglas Ross represents the Highlands & Islands as an MSP and Moray as an MPScottish Parliament

Stephens and Thompson discussed the matter this morning, with the former directly calling out the Conservative Party.

Stephens said: “The executive director of Spotlight on Corruption, Susan Hawley, says that the Tory UK Government’s ‘abject failure’ to take decisive action on overseas donations is concerning our allies.

“She also says that elections are at risk of interference from Russia and other hostile states after the Government opposed the move to require political parties to verify and disclose the source of political donations.

“What steps is the commission taking to prevent overseas donations from hostile states that undermine electoral law?

Owen Thompson is the SNP MP for Midlothian

Owen Thompson is the SNP MP for Midlothian

Parliament TV

“Has the commission asked the security services to undertake a review of political finance?”

Thompson added: “Speaking as a representative of the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, it would be a matter for the security services to make a full assessment of whether unlawful foreign money has been used to campaign in UK elections.

“However, political parties must report when they are given an unlawful donation and return it to the donor.

“In addition, the commission carries out checks on permissibility on a sample of donations and has the power to sanction political parties that accept impermissible foreign donations.

Nicola Sturgeon seated at the Covid InquiryNicola Sturgeon seated at the Covid InquiryPA

“The commission has said that it takes all possible steps within the current regulatory framework to prevent unlawful foreign money from entering UK politics, and it publishes information about donations to ensure transparency.

“It has the powers to sanction, but it cannot take enforcement actions against organisations based outside the UK.

“The commission will continue to recommend changes to ensure that voters can have greater confidence in political finance in the UK.”

Police Scotland's outgoing chief constable Sir Iain Livingstone recently announced the force would extend its investigation to cover "potential embezzlement" and "misuse of funds".

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