Humza Yousaf is reportedly facing an SNP rebellion over his refusal to suspend Nicola Sturgeon and other senior figures involved in the police investigation into the party’s finances after its treasurer was arrested. Scotland’s First Minister Mr Yousaf has refused to suspend Colin Beattie, who was arrested on Tuesday morning.
Mr Yousaf insisted that the party treasurer is “innocent until proven guilty”.
Scottish Tories are calling to suspend Ms Sturgeon who has not been questioned by police, after video footage emerged at the weekend of her trying to shut down scrutiny of the SNP’s finances.
Mr Beattie,the MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh was arrested by Scotland Police at 8am on Tuesday “as a suspect” in connection with its investigation.
He was questioned by detectives for around 12 hours.
The force issued a statement at 8.15pm saying that Mr Beattie had been released without charge pending further investigation, as previously happened with Mr Murrell.
A report will be sent to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.
The development wrecked Mr Yousaf’s attempt to relaunch his government, overshadowing a major policy speech at Holyrood outlining his political priorities.
Speaking outside the Scottish Parliament chamber on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Yousaf said he was “surprised” by the arrest and that he “didn’t believe at all” that the SNP was operating in a criminal manner under his leadership.
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Mr Beattie was party treasurer for most of Mr Murrell’s tenure as chief executive. He served in the post from 2004 until December 2020, until members elected MP Douglas Chapman, who had pledged to improve transparency.
Mr Beattie regained the role a few months later in June 2021, after Mr Chapman resigned claiming he had not been given the information he needed to carry out his duties.
Since July 2021, Police Scotland has been examining the SNP’s handling of more than £600,000 in donations raised in 2017 for a second independence referendum.
Supporters made complaints when accounts lodged with Companies House in 2020 appeared to show the SNP only had £97,000 in the bank, despite the referendum never having been held.
Mr Murrell, who was the SNP chief executive for more than two decades before he quit last month, was arrested on April 5.
The home he shares with Ms Sturgeon was raided by police.
He was released without charge pending further investigation.
Ms Regan, a former SNP community safety minister, told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme: “I think if it’s found that people have been involved in something of this nature, that certainly until that can be cleared up, whether that’s one way or the other, they should be suspended from the party.
“I think this can be resolved with decisive action, and I think that action should be taken to restore confidence both of members of the SNP and the public as well.”
Mr Yousaf refused to suspend Mr Beattie but added: “Of course I’m surprised that one of my colleagues has been arrested, it’s a very serious matter indeed.”