SENIOR SNP members are “increasingly concerned” that Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell will be “imminently charged” as police inquiries into the party’s finances continue.
Accordingly The timesNumerous Nats bosses have said they fear the pair could face charges as early as this weekend.
One person said: “It appears that the situation is now coming to a head and that this investigation is likely to result in an indictment.”
However, officers have repeatedly refused to give a timeframe for completing their investigation.
Yesterday Scotland’s chief constable announced the investigation had “gone beyond the original complaint” – and hinted that police were investigating “potential embezzlement”.
Sir Iain Livingstone also appeared to imply that officials were concerned with “misuse of funds” following the expansion of the scope of Operation Branchform.
Police launched an investigation into the Nats in July 2021 after a spate of complaints about how around £600,000 in pro-independence campaign funds raised between 2017 and 2019 were being spent.
Questions were raised when accounts revealed the SNP had just under £97,000 in the bank at the end of 2019 and total net worth was around £272,000.
When asked about the inquiry on BBC Radio 4, Sir Iain said: “It has gone beyond what some of the early reports were and that is not unusual in an investigation like this.”
He said: “Investigations into the finances of an organization or an individual are often complex.
“Investigations into fraud or investigations into possible embezzlement, investigations into misappropriation of funds take time.”
In April, former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell was arrested by police as part of their investigation and cautiously questioned.
His home in Uddingston – which he shares with Ms Sturgeon – was searched by police and a huge tent was set up on her doorstep.
The SNP headquarters in Edinburgh was also raided and a luxury motorhome was seized by officers outside the home of Mr Murrell’s elderly mother.
Just weeks later, former Nats Treasurer Colin Beattie was arrested and Ms Sturgeon was also arrested last month.
All three were questioned by police before being released without charge.
Although Sir Iain refused to give a specific timetable for the end of the investigation, he did indicate that progress is being made.
And he said it has taken some time to get to the current stage due to the complexity of the financial investigation.
He said: “You need to get information from banks and other financial institutions. We can’t just do this automatically, we have to obtain judicial searches for it, there has to be a process for it.
“Therefore, the time I have taken in making my assessment is absolutely necessary, a careful, thorough and proportionate investigation was conducted.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said Sir Ian’s comments suggested it meant it “may finally be over soon”.
He added: “Too much political oxygen has been focused on the ruling party’s internal problems, just at a time when the public needs SNP ministers focused on their core business.”
Jackie Baillie, Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labor Party, said: “It is right that the Scottish Police are investigating every aspect of this case.” From a single complaint it now appears that there are multiple lines of inquiry and a whole misguided one .
“It is clear that Chief Constable Livingstone and his officers are working hard to shed light on this unpleasant period in Scottish politics.
“The SNP is clearly steeped in a culture of secrecy and the Scottish Government and people deserve answers.”
Craig Hoy, leader of the MSP and Scottish Conservatives, said: “Confirmation that the inquiry into the finances of the SNP went beyond the original complaint only underscores the seriousness of this inquiry.”
“We have also seen Police Scotland have been forced to spend over £800,000 investigating the finances of the SNP, at a time when police budgets are already being stretched.
“As the investigation expands, Nicola Sturgeon and other senior SNP figures – including Humza Yousaf – must continue to cooperate fully with the investigation and be fully transparent at all times.
“The ambiguity about the finances of the SNP does not go away and the nationalists are distracted at the worst possible time. Meanwhile, Scottish Conservatives are focused on Scotland’s real priorities such as the cost of living crisis and the rehabilitation of our NHS.”
We pay for your stories and videos! Do you have a story or video for The Scottish Sun? Email us at email@example.com or call 0141 420 5200