Deputy First Minister Shona Robison defended the decision not to suspend Colin Beattie following his arrest on Tuesday. She also described her colleague as a “man of integrity.”

The SNP Treasurer was released without charge after being questioned for nearly 12 hours as part of Police Scotland's probe into the party's finances and funding. Though the force made clear the release was "pending further investigation."

He was absent from Holyrood this morning, skipping a meeting of this morning’s economy and fair work committee.

READ MORE: Arrested SNP treasurer Colin Beattie dodges first Holyrood meeting

Asked about his role on the SNP's NEC and on the two Holyrood committees he sits on, which includes the Public Accounts Committee, the Deputy First Minister, said Mr Beattie would be discussing his position with Humza Yousaf. 

Speaking to press during a visit to the Dear Green Place coffee business in Glasgow’s East End, Ms Robison said: “I’m assuming the First Minister will be speaking with Colin Beattie today and we’ll need to see what emerges from those meetings but I think the First Minister made himself quite clear.

“I’ve not had any discussions with the First Minister on those matters. I mean, Colin Beattie has been released without charge and I think we have to remember that, so I’ve not discussed this with the First Minister at all.

“Obviously we’ve been discussing other matters, not least the policy prospectus which was announced yesterday. But I’m sure the First Minister will be speaking with Colin Beattie today.”

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She added: "Clearly there are issues there and matters to be resolved. Colin Beattie will also have a view himself around that. I have always found Colin Beattie to be a man of integrity, and he will want to reflect on all of those matters and I'm sure he will discuss those issues with the First Minister."

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf dragged into SNP 'meltdown' despite relaunch bid

On why he had not been suspended, Ms Robison said the First Minister believed people were “innocent until proven otherwise.”

When pointed out that this differed from the precedent set under Nicola Sturgeon, she said that this was how Mr Yousaf was dealing with the situation. 

She refused to say what the threshold was now for SNP members having their membership suspended.

Asked if it would be when they were charged or if they would have to be found guilty in court, Ms Robison said: “What I've said is - and I've repeated what the First Minister has said - and that is that he's not going to suspend people on the basis that they're innocent until proven otherwise.

"If that changed in terms of charges being brought, then that's something he would look at again. I think he's set that out very clearly, and I'm just reiterating the position that he's taken.

“That's what the First Minister has said that he would have to look again if there were any changes. He hasn't pre-determined what that means. What he said was, he would have to look again and consider, but he hasn't pre-judged what action he would take in that circumstances.”

Asked if someone would be suspended if they were reported to the whips or the National Secretary in the way in which former minister Mark McDonald was, Ms Robison refused to be drawn. 

She said: “Well, I'm not going to prejudge what the First Minister and party leader will do in those circumstances. What I'm saying is what he has said so far is innocent until proven otherwise. 

“But if things change and there's different developments, he will take cognisance of that in terms of whether there's a different approach. And I don't think we can pre-judge what will happen in any of these circumstances and it would be wrong to speculate in my opinion.”

Asked if this change meant that any SNP politician or member would not be suspended if they were arrested, regardless of the crime or who it was, Ms Robison suggested the change in policy only applied to those caught up in the recent row over finances.

“Well, what he has reflected upon are the individuals concerned and the position he's taken in regard to those individuals. I don't think you can then speculate if it was a completely different set of circumstances involving different allegations of differing behaviour.

“What we're talking about here are the behaviours we're talking about and the allegations that we're talking about and the circumstances that we're talking about. 

“And in those circumstances, the First Minister and party leader has made clear that he's not going to suspend their membership. He's not gone beyond that. 

“What he has said is if those circumstances change, he will look again at those circumstances without pre-judging them. I think that's fair.”

READ MORE: Rishi Sunak says Nicola Sturgeon left SNP and Scotland 'in a mess'

Ms Robison, who was visiting the site with Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy minister,  Neil Gray, also confirmed that she had sent Ms Sturgeon a message on the day her husband, Peter Murrell was arrested. 

He too was questioned in connection with Operation Branchform, the police’s probe into the SNP’s finances and funding, before being released without charge, pending further investigation.

“I just basically asked if she was okay,” Ms Robison said.

“We didn't speak about anything else,” she added, “and I'm very clear, as is she, that we wouldn't be talking about the police investigation. Absolutely not. It was a welfare check to check that she was okay. And she said, yes.”

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Mr Gray - who was Mr Yousaf’s campaign manager during the SNP leadership race, said it was “frustrating” that Mr Yousaf’s fledgling administration had been overshadowed by the row over finances. 

He said: “It's frustrating, obviously, that we're not able to talk as much about the priorities that we're setting out for government because some of the party issues are dominating. 

“We set out yesterday a very positive, ambitious prospectus, that has a huge amount in it for people to look at, to see what we over the next three year period are going to be delivering on, and for the people to hold us accountable to over the next three year period. 

“But you know, Humza's not dodged or shied away from the scrutiny around the party issues either. He's fronted that up, he has from the very get-go instructed the party to continue on a governance and transparency review. And he's also looking to make sure that government is driven hard to deliver for the people of Scotland as well.”

Asked how the First Minister was doing, Ms Robison said: “He's doing well, he's a strong leader. This is a fairly challenging set of circumstances to come into leadership with and he is managing that extraordinarily well, actually, and making sure that even though that is a challenging, and sometimes time-consuming issue to resolve, he's still 100% focused on the issues of the government of Scotland. 

“So he's a very busy guy at the moment.”

Asked if he had any regrets, Ms Robison replied: “No regrets at all.”