A FORMER SNP cabinet minister has called for forensic accountants to examine the party’s finances after its ruling body “utterly failed” to monitor them properly.

Alex Neil said independent experts were needed to get to the bottom of what appeared to be “mismanagement of the party's finances”. 

Forensic accountants are frequently used to investigate financial crime.

Mr Neil also urged Humza Yousaf to get rid of the party’s business convener or chair, the East Renfrewshire MP Kirsten Oswald.

Despite being a backer of Kate Forbes for the SNP leadership, the former Health Secretary was sympathetic to Mr Yousaf, saying he had inherited “a bed of nails” from his predecessor.

Since Nicola Sturgeon announced her resignation in February, the SNP has been beset by problems over policy divisions, revelations about party HQ, and financial intrigue.

Ms Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell, resigned after more than 20 years as SNP chief executive last month after SNP HQ misled the media about falling membership numbers.

Last week police arrested and questioned him as part of a long-running inquiry into the SNP’s finances, and released him without charge.

Since July 2021, Police Scotland have been investigating whether £660,000 raised by the SNP specifically for a second referendum campaign may have been spent on other things.

As well as arresting Mr Murrell, the force also searched the Glasgow home he shares with Ms Sturgeon last Wednesday, and seized a luxury £110,000 motorhome from outside the house of Mr Murrell’s widowed 92-year-old mother in Fife.

The Daily Record today reports the SNP bought the motorhome as a Covid compliant 'battle bus' for the 2021 Holyrood election, but never used it.

A source told the paper: “The campervan was about trying to have an ability to campaign while complying with the [lockdown] rules.

"It would have acted as a mobile campaign room. It would mean not having a need for hotels and minimise mixing... It was not a great idea.”

READ MORE: SNP finance woes deepen as auditors leave party's Westminster group

Mr Yousaf revealed yesterday that the SNP’s auditors, Johnston Carmichael, had resigned six months ago, yet he hadn’t been told until after he became leader in March.

The information did not become public until April 7.

Johnston Carmichael quit after more than a decade as the SNP’s auditors in September citing "a review of our client portfolio and existing resources and commitments".

The SNP, which has an income of around £4.5million a year, has yet to appoint new auditors and admits it may struggle to file its 2022 accounts before a legal deadline on July 7.

The Herald reveals today that at around the same time, Johnston Carmichael also stopped working for the SNP’s Westminster Group, which has an income of around £1.5m a year.

Again, the Group has yet to appoint new auditors, and faces the same deadline to lodge its separate accounts with the Electoral Commission.

On BBC Radio Scotland this morning, Mr Neil said it was “absolutely unacceptable” that the resignation of the auditors had been kept secret, including from the SNP’s ruling body.

He suggested the party’s struggle to find new auditors could be related to its financial woes. 

He said: “It certainly appears that way. I don't know why, because the party should financially be in a healthy position. Every MP and every MSP has to contribute £250 a month to headquarters out of their own salary. 

“And top of that, we usually make money from the National Conference which is held every year, and of course we get donations, and we have, allegedly, 72,000 members and the average membership fee is £12 a year, so the party should not be short of money.”

He said Mr Yousaf had inherited a “very unfair” situation.

He said: “Clearly he's taken over a complete bed of nails, both in the government in terms of the shambles of some policy areas, as well as in the party.

“And it's very worrying that a party that has got 72,000 members, with all the sources of income we've got, appears to have financial difficulties and these difficulties appear to be as a result of mismanagement of the party's finances. 

“So we really have to get to the bottom of this. 

“My own view is that Humza should bring in special accountants called forensic accountants to look at every aspect of party funding and report back to the party at the earliest opportunity. Let's get to the bottom of this. Let's get it sorted and move on. 

“It’s not doing the party any favours, day after day, having drip after drip of new information that’s all bad news, and I think what Humze has to do now is to bring in a new business convener of the party, bring in a new chief executive, and meantime get forensic accountants in to tell us the real state of the parties finances.”

Mr Neil also criticised the SNP’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee (NEC), which he said should have held the party’s leadership to account, but failed to do so.

He said former SNP MP Roger Mullin was “shouted down” by some NEC members a few years ago when he proposed governance reforms.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf rules out SNP paying Peter Murrell's legal fees

He said: “They’ve utterly failed, and I would suggest to Humza that the fundamental review of governance that he's hoping to carry out should not be carried out by those who failed on governance in the first place, and who refused to accept the recommendations on the improvement of governance. 

“It should be done independently, so that we get people in who are professional advisors on governance and get our structures right. 

“There was a reorganisation a number of years ago about how the party executive was elected, and the bottom line is a lot of the executive are not actually directly elected by the party. They're representing different organisations with different vested interests. 

“And probably many of them have never been in a national executive before, and perhaps have never been told what the duties are of a member of the National Executive to hold the party organisation and organisers and the officials to account.”