HUMZA Yousaf has said he does “not believe” the SNP is operating in a criminal way after the arrest of the party's treasurer this morning.

The First Minister said he was “surprised” that MSP Colin Beattie had been taken in for questioning as a suspect by detectives investigating the SNP’s finances.

He said he wanted to discuss “pertinent issues” about his role as national treasurer with him later.

Mr Yousaf admitted the development was “certainly not helpful” and “not ideal” ahead of his bid to relaunch his administration with a keynote policy speech at Holyrood.

Police Scotland is investigating whether £660,000 raised by the SNP specifically for a second independence referendum campaign was spent on other things.

The party’s former chief executive, Peter Murrell, who is married to Nicola Sturgeon, was arrested and questioned on April 5 before being released without charge.

Speaking to the media on his way to the weekly meeting of SNP MSPs at Holyrood, Mr Yousaf was asked if Mr Beattie would be suspended from the group or party.

He said: “I've said already that people are innocent until proven guilty.”

But asked if he would take Mr Beattie off Holyrood’s public audit committee, Mr Yousaf said he would “consider that”.

He said: “I'll have to speak to Colin Beattie. My understanding is he's still in the police station being questioned.

“Clearly when he's off that, I’ll hav a word with Colin - not about the likelihood investigation - but clearly there are pertinent issues around public audit committee and of course his roles as national treasurer.”

Asked if he was surprised at Mr Battie’s arrest, he said: “Well, yes, of course I'm surprised. “One of my colleagues has been arrested. It's a very serious matter, indeed.”

Asked if he could “guarantee that the party isn’t operating in a criminal way” since he became leader, he said: “Certainly don't believe it is at all, no. 

“I have, as you know, instructed a review into transparency and good governance.. and I want some external input into that.

“So there is change that is needed within the way how the party has operated. I've made that absolutely clear.”

He said he still intended to set out “my vision as a new leader” to MSPs later.

“I hope that we can move on to speak about those issues, but I'm not going to take away from the fact that the timing of this is far from ideal.”