A one-man company run by an SNP cabinet minister has accumulated £50,000 in assets after years of soliciting money for work that has yet to take place, it has emerged.

Angus Robertson has now promised to restart activity at Progress Scotland Ltd after the Herald inquired about how much the firm had raised since 2021.

The Constitution Secretary is the sole shareholder and managing director of the polling and political research company, which he set up in 2018 after losing his Westminster seat.

Funded by subscriptions and donations, it planned to commission “polling, focus groups and other research to better understand how people’s views are changing in Scotland”.

In February 2019, Mr Robertson, a former SNP deputy leader, claimed “thousands of people” had generously subscribed to the pro-independence enterprise.

It initially commissioned and published polling data on Scotland’s relationship with the EU and a second independence referendum, some of which was promoted by the SNP. 

However it last published a poll in October 2020, and it has had a low profile ever since, updating its website only a handful of times. 

The lack of activity coincided with Mr Robertson, 54, being elected as the MSP for Edinburgh Central in May 2021, after which he stopped working as Progress Scotland’s boss. 

His parliamentary register of interests states: “I am the Managing Director of Progress Scotland Ltd, a firm concerned with opinion polling and political research.

“Since my election, I have not undertaken any work in this role. I expect to receive a final payment of between £501 and £1,000 for work completed prior to my election.” 

However, the company’s website continued to seek funds from supporters after his election, and its bank balance went from strength to strength.

Accounts published last month show it had current assets of £51,667 by May last year, compared to £6,998 in November 2020, six months before Mr Robertson’s election.

Mr Robertson told the Herald the funds in the firm represented a “polling reserve” which had built up after a “pause” and that the next round of polling would be conducted “shortly”.

His Conservative shadow, the MSP Alexander Stewart, queried the lack of detail.

He said: “Angus Robertson’s company seems very inappropriately named. 

“Progress Scotland hasn’t made any progress - or as far as anyone can make out - done anything much at all for almost four years.

“Yet this pro-independence outfit is continuing to solicit donations and drum up funds, and now has more than £50,000 in the bank.

“Angus Robertson now says this is a ‘polling reserve’ but doesn’t explain when any polling might be resuming.”

The home page of the Progress Scotland website asks people to “support us today”.

Clicking on the link takes visitors to a second page saying “Donate to Progress Scotland” and suggests sums of £50, £100, £500 and “other” to be paid by card or PayPal. 

It also offers an option to “make this a monthly donation”.

The website says: “Progress Scotland aims to help prepare the case for Scotland to progress towards independence, keeping pace with the views of the people who make their lives here.

“We will research the opinion of people in Scotland and test their appetite to emulate the most successful small countries in the world.

“We will provide insight and analysis on what is needed to persuade people on the case for Scotland to make progress.”

Mr Robertson said: “It is precisely because Progress Scotland is not having to pay staff costs that a polling reserve has built up - which is a good thing. 

“Subscriptions to Progress Scotland have been paused, given there is a reserve and the next round of polling will be conducted shortly.”

At the end of its first financial year on 30 November 2019, Progress Scotland Ltd had net assets of minus £154, based on fixed assets of £2,235, current assets of £3,260 and creditors being owed £5,649. 

The Herald:

Examples of fixed assets include computer equipment, while current assets include cash.

A year later, the company’s fixed assets were £2,773, but the current assets had grown to £6,988 and creditors were owed £10,370, leaving net assets of minus £609.

In 2022, Progress Scotland changed its accounting reference date from 30 November to 31 May, meaning it had another six months in which to file its next set of accounts.

Filed in May 2023, these showed that in the 18 months ending 31 May 2022, Mr Robertson’s company had substantially increased its assets and reserves.

Fixed assets were down to £1,237, but current assets were up from less than £7,000 to £28,185, while creditors were owed £9,673, leaving net assets £19,749.

Last month, the company filed its accounts for the year to 31 May 2023, and again, despite Mr Robertson no longer working for it, its numbers had improved again.

Fixed assets were £1,015, but current assets had increased in 12 months from below £29,000 to £51,667, while creditors were £13,937. 

Net assets were £38,745, almost double the sum a year earlier.

The Herald asked Mr Robertson for the company’s current asset figures and if it was “bad form” to raise money for work that has yet to take place, but he did not respond.

The Scottish Government has been asked for comment.