THE SNP hid the resignation of their auditors during a police investigation for six months, Humza Yousaf disclosed today.

The First Minister said even he didn’t know Johnston Carmichael quit last year until he was briefed after winning the SNP leadership on March 27.

It is understoood the SNP's ruling body, the National Executive Committee, was also kept in the dark.

The development was only made public on April 7.

Mr Yousaf said the firm resigned "around" October, but it is understood it actually gave notice in September.

For most of the half-year involved, SNP HQ was under the direction of then chief executive Peter Murrell, the husband of Nicola Sturgeon.

Mr Murrell was arrested and released without charge after being questioned by police last Wednesday as part of a probe into the SNP's finances. 

Speaking to the media in Leith today, Mr Yousaf agreed that it was “extraordinary” that the party had failed to appoint a new set of financial overseers since the resignation.

He admitted it would now be "challenging" for the SNP to file its 2022 accounts by the July deadline, and the party would work "furiously" to hit it.

He said: “They resigned last year. I think it was in and and about October last year. 

“But the fact that we don't have auditors in place is one of the major priorities.

“You can imagine when I found that out, being the party leader, the party is quickly looking to secure another auditor.”

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Asked if the SNP would be able to meet the July 7 deadline for submitting its 2022 anual accounts to the Electoral Commission, he said: “We're working very hard to do that. It's one of the significant priorities.

“When I learned about the fact that we don't have an auditor in place, of course I've instructed the party to get on with finding another auditor, so we are working very hard to do that.”

Put to him that it was "extraordinary" that the auditors resigned in October, yet he and possibly other senior SNP figures weren’t told, he said: “I don't disagree with the premise of your question. 

“That's clearly why I've asked the NEC [National Executive Council] to do a review of governance and transparency.”

Asked why the auditors had resigned, Mr Yousaf said: “I don't think we can release that information. I can see with Johnston Carmichael if we’re able to do so. 

“But my job as leader of the SNP is to make sure we get auditors in place as soon as we possibly can.”

Asked if the continued absence of auditors indicated party dysfunction, Mr Yousaf said: “It’s certainly problematic. I won't deny that at all. 

“That is why one of the first things I did as leader on hearing this information was to instruct the party to get on with finding another auditor, and that's what we're doing.”

Asked when he first found out about the auditors resigning, Mr Yousaf said: “I first knew shortly after becoming the leader of the SNP - brought up to speed in terms of the financial picture and the financial health of the party.

"But of course, before then, I had no role in the party's finances.”

Asked why he hadn’t made it public immediately, he said: “You can imagine that being the leader of the SNP, being the First Minister of Scotland, there's a number of priorities that I've got to deal with, first and foremost dealing with the cost-of-living crisis, trying to deal with health inequalities, dealing with investing in our public sector.

“And that's why the very first NEC meeting that I chaired as the leader of the party [on April 1], literally less than a week as the leader of the SNP, was to get the NEC to agree to a review into governance and transparency with external input.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: "The plot continues to thicken. That the SNP did not come clean about this for months stinks to high heavens.

"It is deeply worrying if they have been unable to replace the auditors in all this time. It is time for the secrecy to end."

Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy added: “The stench surrounding the SNP’s finances becomes more toxic by the day.

“It is an extraordinary revelation that the SNP’s auditors resigned as far back as October, when senior figures have spent months maintaining that there were no questions over the party’s finances.

“The fact that they have apparently not yet found replacements makes this business even murkier.

“Without hampering the police investigation, it’s long past time for the SNP to drop their addiction to secrecy, and give a full account of what has been going on in the management of their party.”

Liberal Democrat Scottish affairs spokeswoman Christine Jardine said: “I am deeply concerned that while the First Minister is consumed by the drama inside his own party, no-one is getting on with running the country.

“A record number of Scots are on a waiting list. I suspect they don’t care whether Peter Murrell has resigned, quit or not, but they would like ministers to get on with fixing things.”

Johnson Carmichael, who had worked with the SNP for more than a decade, resigned citing "a review of our client portfolio and existing resources and commitments".

Under electoral law, the SNP must prepare annual financial statements and, because its income and expenditure exceeds £250,000 a year, must have them independently audited.  

READ MORE: MSP says SNP members 'shocked' by turmoil and Peter Murrell arrest

Its accounts cover each calendar year, and the last set, covering the year to December 2021, were published last August. 

They showed the party's total income in 2021 was £4,510,460, while total expenditure was £5,262,032, and assets and liabilities were £1,630,454 and £1,055,689 respectively.

A spokesperson for Johnston Carmichael said: “As a regulated organisation, we adhere to our obligations on client confidentiality and do not discuss client business.”

The SNP said it had tried to find new auditors in late 2022 and intensified its search in 2023 but there was a lack of candidates with the ability to audit a political party and "no firm with the required capacity has been identified".

An SNP spokesperson said: “We have informed the Electoral Commission of the difficulty in identifying replacement auditors and the National Treasurer has made the party’s Finance and Audit Committee aware.”