Colin Beattie has been SNP MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh since 2011 and has held the role of the party's national treasurer for most of the past two decades.

He was briefly ousted from the treasurer role by Douglas Chapman, MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, during the party's internal elections in November 2020 when a slate of candidates demanding more transparency stood in the contests.

But Mr Chapman resigned from the post in May 2021 stating that he "had not received the support or financial information required to carry out the fiduciary duties of national treasurer."

Mr Beattie, 71, a former senior international banker who was this morning arrested by Police Scotland investigating the SNP's finances and this evening released without charge pending further inquiries, then resumed his role as national treasurer and, the following month, was formally re-elected to the position in November 2021.

It is not known when he became aware of the resignation of the SNP's auditors Johnston Carmichael in September 2022.

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Last weekend he reportedly told the SNP's ruling national executive committee (NEC) that the party was struggling to balance its books due to an exodus of members and donors as well as costs associated with the long running police probe, but the SNP insisted its finances are "in balance".

It was not the first time comments Mr Beattie has made on the party finances have been the subject of public discussion.

In his message to party members ahead of standing for re-election as SNP treasurer in November 2021, Mr Beattie stated that since resuming the role the previous June he realised "there was an huge deficit in communication and information sharing" adding that he was taking steps to address the issue with meetings held with officials locally to brief them on the party's finances. 

He added: "There are no financial secrets - simply a failure of open communication which I am working hard to sort out."

In June 2021, shortly after he resumed his role of national treasurer, he gave a detailed update on £600,000 raised by independence supporters for a second independence referendum which is currently at the centre of the Police Scotland investigation.

He noted at the time that he and Peter Murrell, the party's then chief executive were "in discussions with the external auditors as to how such transparency can be achieved and improved in future years."

Mr Murrell was arrested earlier this month and questioned under caution by detectives in connection with the investigation into the SNP's funding and finances. He was later released without charge pending further inquiries. At the same time, police officers also searched Mr Murrell's home which he shares with former first minister Nicola Sturgeon and also the SNP's headquarters in Edinburgh.

The Herald:

Douglas Chapman, the SNP MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, ousted Colin Beattie in November 2020 from the role of national treasurer, but then resigned from the post six months later complaining that had "not received the support or financial information required to carry out the fiduciary duties of national treasurer." Mr Beattie then resumed the position.

In his statement in June 2021 on the party's finances, Mr Beattie said: "Questions have been raised in recent months about funds raised in response to independence related appeals since 2017 and whether all of the amounts raised will be spent directly on the campaign to win independence.

"As national treasurer, I give an assurance that this will be the case. However, in the explanation that follows, I will also (a) set out details of the audit and financial reporting rules the party is subject to; (b) outline the long standing internal process within the Party that will ensure that amounts equivalent to the sums raised will be spent directly on the campaign to win independence; and (c) explain why this amount doesn’t currently show as a separate fund in the Party’s accounts."

He went on to say that the accounts of the SNP are subject to external audit and to review by the Electoral Commission adding that "assurance can therefore be taken that the accounts are true and fair, and have been prepared in accordance with the Electoral Commission’s requirements".

The Herald:

Former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon with her husband, Peter Murrell, who stood down as SNP chief executive in March this year.   File Photo Colin Mearns.

His statement said that funds received by way of donations "are all treated in the same way. Whether received by card or cheque or by bank transfer they are recorded as donations and accounted as such in our books. This includes reporting to the Electoral Commission where appropriate."

It added that by the end of 2020 a total of £666,953 had been raised through the independence related appeals and coded as such through the internal process and that these donations were included in party accounts from 2017 to 2020.

The statement added: "There has been concern expressed in some quarters that this system does not result in a separate fund being officially recorded in the annual accounts of the Party. Hence a claim from some that the money does not exist.

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"In fact the money is “earmarked” through the internal process set out above and will be deployed fully through future cash flow for the purpose of promoting a referendum on independence and campaigns intended to secure independence.

"All money raised by the party through multiple revenue sources is managed through the books of the party and, in common with other funds is expensed and paid when required through the normal Treasury Managed cash flow of the Party.

"While these monies are not separated out, their existence in terms of the commitment as to what they will be spent on is tangible. The National Treasurer and the CEO have responsibility for managing cash flow and ensuring that all liabilities are met when they fall due."

It went on the say that "there may be a need for a further fund raising exercise early in 2022 as we approach critical political watersheds" and added that "the inclusion of this statement in the Annual Review and the National Treasurer and CEO are in discussions with the external auditors as to how such transparency can be achieved and improved in future years."

Mr Beattie, born in Forfar, Angus, in 1951, chose financial services as his career and worked in senior positions in the sector in Asia and the Middle East, then in London, for more than 20 years.

"Colin spent most of his career abroad in former colonies as a banker with Standard Chartered. So was in Sri Lanka, Lagos, Johannesburg, Hong Kong and, I think, Singapore," an SNP source who knows Mr Beattie told The Herald.

He took early retirement to enter politics as a councillor in Midlothian in 2007, where he was SNP leader, and he became the Holyrood MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh in 2011.

By the time of his election as an SNP MSP, Mr Beattie, who lives in Dalkeith, Mid Lothian, had been national treasurer for seven years but he did not allow his elevation to raise his profile within the party beyond the confines of the NEC.

He has never held a ministerial position but he sits on the Scottish parliament’s public audit committee (PAC).

The SNP source said: "Colin has been a conscientious and tireless constituency MSP who has worked hard to solve local issues, such as sewage pollution in the South Esk river, or the construction of a proper junction on the Edinburgh bypass to replace the Sherriffhall roundabout traffic bottle neck.

"It would also be fair to say he has generally avoided getting involved with the more controversial issues at Holyrood and has been content to be on the back-benches”.

Craig Hoy, the Scottish Conservatives’ chairman who is also on the committee with Mr Beattie, gave a more critical assessment, telling the Times at the weekend: “There is something ironic in the fact that the SNP treasurer, who can’t get the party’s accounts audited, sits on the PAC.

“During the ferries inquiry [into the delayed CalMac ferries being built on the Clyde] it became clear to me where Beattie’s loyalties lay. That wasn’t on the side of openness and transparency when it came to the actions of SNP ministers.”

Mr Beattie was one of 11 SNP MSPs who backed former finance secretary Kate Forbes in the recent leadership contest narrowly won by Humza Yousaf.

He increased his majority in Midlothian North and Musselburgh by almost 1,000 votes in the Holyrood election in May 2021.