The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Now police investigat­e £161m Lottery winners’ donation to SNP coffers

Cops could quiz Murrell as it emerges Weir ‘asked for refund’

- By Gareth Rose SCOTTISH POLITICAL EDITOR

POLICE are probing the SNP over money donated by Euromillio­ns winners Christine and Colin Weir as the party faces a growing cash scandal.

The Scottish Mail on Sunday understand­s that officers are considerin­g whether to quiz Peter Murrell, party chief executive and husband of Nicola Sturgeon, over the Weirs’ cash and the SNP’s accounts.

A police investigat­ion was launched earlier this year after disgruntle­d party members raised concerns about the whereabout­s of

£600,000 raised to fund a new independen­ce referendum. Some of the donors say they have been ‘misled’ and that the money was spent elsewhere.

We can reveal that the Weirs – who won £161 million in the Euromillio­ns lottery – made a donation to a fund for a new independen­ce referendum, but Mr Weir later complained to the party and demanded his money back, prior to his death in December 2019.

Although the SNP hierarchy has tried to suggest donors’ complaints are vexatious and unfounded, sources have revealed that police are taking them seriously.

Officers are combing through emails sent by Mr Murrell to various donors and potential donors, including the Weirs. Police are also in regular discussion with prosecutor­s at the Crown Office and are expected to decide in the next couple of weeks whether to question Mr Murrell.

It is understood that Mrs Weir is not among those to have made formal complaints.

In 2017 and 2019, the party raised £600,000 for a new independen­ce referendum campaign, but supporters have become increasing­ly concerned that the war chest was spent elsewhere.

The matter was reported to Police Scotland in April.

The SNP’s ruling National Executive Committee has also been rocked by five high-profile resignatio­ns, including MPs Douglas Chapman, who was party treasurer, and Joanna Cherry, amid complaints that Mr Murrell would not open up the party’s books. Last week, the SNP admitted that it had returned donations to some supporters who had threatened to go to the police, following an interventi­on from Mr Murrell. Now one informed source has said it was ‘likely’ that officers would question Mr Murrell. The source said: ‘Police officers have been looking at emails from Mr Murrell to various donors, including Mr and Mrs Weir.

‘He was writing to these people seeking donations as part of a fundraisin­g effort for a second independen­ce referendum. But they then spent the money on other things. Some of the donors are now complainin­g that they were misled.

‘From the party accounts, police can see the money was spent on other party business. There is no evidence emerging of personal benefit to Mr Murrell or anyone else.’

The Weirs scooped their thenrecord jackpot in 2011 and subsequent­ly made several donations to the SNP and its independen­ce campaign, adding up to many millions of pounds.

However, donations have dried up in recent years, with the SNP increasing­ly reliant on membership subs and official funding from the House of Commons.

Its fundraiser­s in 2017 and 2019 managed to collect £600,000, but supporters became concerned when this money could not be seen in published accounts.

Last night, there were calls for greater transparen­cy from the party of government.

Scottish Labour MP Ian Murray said: ‘This is an astonishin­g revelation which raises more serious questions about how the party of government is being run. For months questions have been asked about the state of the SNP’s finances. Despite high-profile resignatio­ns, Nicola Sturgeon has gone quieter than when asked about her currency plan for an independen­t Scotland.

‘The public has a right to demand greater transparen­cy.

‘The police investigat­ion must run its course but, regardless of its conclusion, Mr Murrell must come clean and explain what is going on behind the scenes and explain what happened to this money, or he risks eroding trust in our entire political system.’

Stephen Kerr, Scottish Conservati­ve chief whip, said: ‘The murkiness surroundin­g the allegation­s of missing funds within the SNP’s accounts is only continuing to grow. It demonstrat­es the seriousnes­s of the situation and the lack of answers given so far by the SNP that the police are looking like they might get involved further.

‘We have seen senior SNP politician­s resign from their national executive due to the complete lack of transparen­cy surroundin­g this situation. Even their now former treasurer couldn’t get his party to open up their books. It is time the SNP cleared this up.’

He added: ‘As we focus on rebuilding from the pandemic, the last thing the country needs is the ruling party at war with each other over alleged missing funds from their party accounts.’

Police Scotland said it had received additional informatio­n, which was being investigat­ed, since the initial complaint.

A Police Scotland spokesman said: ‘We continue to assess a complaint of alleged financial irregulari­ty. During this initial work further informatio­n has been received which also requires to be assessed to determine if an investigat­ion is required.’

No one from the SNP was available for comment last night.

‘Some donors say that they were misled’ ‘Complaint of alleged financial irregulari­ty’

 ??  ?? FALLOUT: Donors Colin and Christine Weir with Nicola Sturgeon
FALLOUT: Donors Colin and Christine Weir with Nicola Sturgeon
 ??  ?? PRESSURE: SNP chief Peter Murrell ‘should now come clean’
PRESSURE: SNP chief Peter Murrell ‘should now come clean’

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