Humza Yousaf insists SNP is not ‘in league’ with police following arrest of Nicola Sturgeon’s husband.
HUMZA Yousaf insisted his party was not “in league” with police following the arrest of Nicola Sturgeon’s husband over SNP finances.
The First Minister sought to distance himself from Peter Murrell by admitting the party needs to improve its financial governance – and declaring his arrest was not “insignificant”.
Mr Murrell, ex-SNP chief, was released without charge on Wednesday night after the house he shares with Ms Sturgeon was searched by police officers – along with SNP HQ in Edinburgh.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Yousaf also appeared to criticize his predecessor, after she previously claimed she was unaware of the party’s financial situation.
Following the sensational developments in this week’s SNP financial inquiry, former minister Alex Neil has raised questions about the timing of the police raid – insisting the force must “make clear if they have been asked in any way to delay the arrest”. .
He added: “You should be completely open and honest and let us know if you changed the timing of this arrest in any way because of the SNP leadership’s election.”
When asked during a briefing at Bute House about the timing of the move to search Ms Sturgeon’s home and arrest her husband, Mr Yousaf said: “It sounds to me like a conspiracy theory that we are somehow involved with the Police of Scotland stuck under a blanket.
“The timing of any investigation is entirely a matter for Police Scotland and no one else will determine it.”
Ms Sturgeon officially resigned as FM last week, just days before police launched a search of her Glasgow home, with her husband being questioned under caution.
The ex-First Minister has repeatedly insisted that the police investigation launched over 18 months ago had nothing to do with her decision to quit.
And on Wednesday, she said she had no “prior knowledge” that officers would search her home or warn her husband.
Mr Yousaf said he has not spoken to Ms Sturgeon or Mr Murrell since the arrest.
And insisted he had never discussed party finances with the ex-SNP chief.
Mr Murrell resigned his role just days before the party’s new leader was announced amid allegations of lies and secrecy in the race to replace his wife.
Police Scotland launched an investigation into the SNP’s finances after concerns were raised about what had happened to nearly £500,000 the SNP had raised for a referendum campaign in a 2017 online crowdfunding.
Mr Yousaf said: “Obviously one of the first things, one of the first conversations I was keen to have as the new leader of the SNP was to understand the finances of the party, the financial health of the party and of course standing up to speed things up the police investigation happened.
“So [it was] one of the first conversations I’ve had with some of them in the past, you can imagine.”
He now suggests bringing in an outside auditor to help overhaul the party – including examining its financial transparency and broader approaches.
Mr Yousaf admitted that “various” SNP employees had been spoken to as part of the police investigation, but said Mr Murrell was the only one questioned with caution.
He said: “The only one I understand who has been questioned with caution is Peter.
“Remember that our justice system rightly assumes that people are innocent until proven guilty.
“Of course, Peter was questioned with caution.
“That is not an unimportant point.
“But of course, as you know as well as I do, he was released without charge.
“There may be developments in this case and I will be monitoring the police investigation as closely as you wish and I will be doing that closely.”
Asked if he had any regrets praising Mr Murrell during the lead race, Mr Yousaf said: “No, because again, I’m just going back to the point where when I was asked about Peter Murrell, I I made the point, I think quite rightly. Over the years he has made it very clear that he is a proven election winner. “
He also said that a person remains innocent until proven guilty.
Although he said he did not expect to be questioned by police officers, Mr Yousaf pledged his full cooperation on the matter.
Asked about Ms Sturgeon’s claims, which she cannot recall, when she was told about a £100,000 loan from her husband to the SNP, Mr Yousaf said she needed to discuss it.
Speaking to him that as party leader at the time she must certainly have been aware of the financial situation, he said: “Of course she has to explain what Nicola said.
“Given the circumstances as party leader, given the ongoing police investigation, given the public interest in the party’s finances, I will of course monitor this closely.”
Mr Yousaf also admitted it has been a “difficult and painful” few days for his party.
Last night Jackie Baillie, deputy leader of the Scottish Labor Party, said: “Scotland deserves better than the scandal-ridden SNP and she’s out of touch and out of the deep.”
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