A FORMER SNP treasurer has spoken to police investigating a potential fraud involving £600,000 raised by the party for an independence campaign.

Douglas Chapman, who resigned from the position after being denied access to accounts by SNP HQ, spoke to detectives from Operation Branchform.

It is understood the Dunfermline MP was interviewed as a potential witness.

Fellow SNP MP Joanna Cherry KC said the story could “derail” the SNP leadership contest and urged others to “speak up now to avoid further damage to the party”.

SNP HQ is run by Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell, who has been the party’s chief executive for two decades.

The Herald on Sunday reported earlier this month that senior SNP figures had been contacted by the police as part of efforts to step up the investigation.

READ MORE: SNP urged to explain 'extraordinary coincidence' in finance row

Three days later, Ms Sturgeon announced she was quitting as SNP leader and First Minister.

The Sunday Mail today reported that Mr Chapman has now spoken to officers.

The Herald has independently confirmed Mr Chapman’s appointment with the police.

Launched in July 2021, Operation Branchform is looking at whether funds raised specifically for an “independence campaign” were improperly spent by the SNP on other things.

The police have also been asked to look at a six-figure loan from Ms Sturgeon’s husband. 

Mr Murrell loaned £107,620 to the SNP the day after a party leadership meeting discussed the funding being looked at by police as officers made preliminary enquiries in June 2021.

Ms Sturgeon recently said she could not “recall exactly” when the loan was made.

The party has said it was to “assist with cashflow”.

The saga goes back to March 2017, when Ms Sturgeon announced plans for a second independence in light of the Brexit vote the previous year.

Mr Murrell launched a £1m fundraising exercise to coincide with the announcement.

It was dropped in July 2017 after the SNP suffered losses in the general election and Ms Sturgeon “reset” her independence plans.

The party said the £482,000 raised by the crowdfunder would “only be used for the specific purpose of a referendum campaign”.

However SNP accounts later showed less than this in the party’s bank and reserves, and then treasurer Colin Beattie MSP insisted donations were “woven through” the figures.

At the party’s 2020 conference, Mr Chapman was elected as the SNP’s new treasurer, one of a range of new faces intent on greater transparency at SNP HQ. They didn’t get it.

In March 2021, three members of the finance and audit committee resigned after being refused access to the party’s books, prompting pro-independence activist Sean Clerkin to complain to the police about possible fraud in relation to the SNP’s fundraising.

In late May 2021, Mr Chapman stood down as treasurer, saying he had been denied the information he needed to do the job.

The Herald:

Ms Cherry also quit the SNP’s ruling body over a lack of transparency.

On 19 June 2021, the party’s ruling body discussed the fundraising.

Mr Beattie, who had by then returned as treasurer, issued a statement to members that day saying £666,953 had been raised for independence and “an amount equivalent to the sums raised” would be spent on that when required.

The next day, Mr Murrell loaned the party £107,620 to help with its cashflow. 

The SNP failed to report the loan to the Electoral Commission for more than a year, and also discussed the source in its 2021 accounts, saying it came from “executive management”.

The SNP has yet to repay £60,000 of the zero-interest loan.

READ MORE: Timeline of SNP’s financial issues, fundraising and loans

The Scottish Tories said: “The SNP have been circling the wagons on this money for almost three years. Now a police investigation is in full swing, we have to hope that answers will come out and fast.”

Last August, the SNP’s accounts showed it had spent a third of £740,822 raised for independence despite the absence of a referendum. 

Police Scotland said: “A report which outlines inquiries already undertaken and seeks further instruction has been submitted to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.”

The Crown Office said it was working with police “in this ongoing investigation”.

The SNP said: “We are cooperating fully with the investigation.”