A DISAFFECTED former SNP member who recovered almost £500 in Indyref2 donations from the party has urged others to do likewise while they still can. 

James Gardner asked for his money back after becoming disillusioned with the SNP’s efforts to secure independence and the treatment of former leader Alex Salmond.

The 72-year-old retired defence industry engineer offered no receipts to back up his claim, but succeeded because his bank account details and address were unchanged.

After emailing SNP fundraiser Jim Henderson in March saying he had been “shocked at the direction of the party”, Mr Gardner’s account was credited with £480 last week.

He said he would encourage others to follow his example, especially with the party’s former treasurer Colin Beattie being arrested last Tuesday.

He told the Herald: “I’m glad I did it when I did. I might be on the last train out the station.”

If others demand donations back en masse it could lead to cash flow problems for the SNP, which is already in a financial and governance crisis.

Mr Gardner, from Milton of Campsie near Glasgow, said he gave around £100 to a ringfenced referendum fund launched by the SNP in March 2017.

He also gave £10 a month to the fund by direct debit, later doubling it to £20 a month.

These donations were on top of the monthly party membership fee he paid after joining the SNP in 2011 before leaving in 2019. 

He said: “I was a very good member of the SNP. I gave my time generously. I did door chapping and I did leaflet dropping. I bought the raffle tickets at Christmas.  

“As far as the SNP are concerned, they lost a good earner in me. Since I’ve left they’ve probably written off about £1500.”

He said he read about getting a refund about a month ago, but that receipts were needed.

“I thought it was worth sending an email. I thought, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I was more surprised than anybody to get my money back

“I would encourage folk and say, You don’t need all this folderol, as long as you have the same address and bank account you paid them through, then it’s simple for them to look back at their rercords. 

“If folk just threw in a tenner, they might be willing to write it off. 

“But for folk like me who gave a monthly sub, the tenners add up, so it’s worth going after it.

“If they’re not even going to try for independence, then they’ve basically tricked you.”

The Herald: James Gardner's bank receipt showing the SNP refunded £480 in donationsJames Gardner's bank receipt showing the SNP refunded £480 in donations (Image: Mark Gibson)

The SNP appointed an interim treasurer on Saturday after Mr Beattie quit following his arrest on Tuesday by police investigating the party’s finances.

Mr Gardner’s MP, Stuart McDonald, is the new SNP treasuer.

Police Scotland is investigating if £660,000 raised specifically to fight a new independence referendum was spent on other things.

Former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, who is married to Nicola Sturgeon, was arrested and questioned by officers on April 5.

Both he and Mr Beattie were released without charge.

There is growing speculation at Holyroood that Ms Sturgeon will be questioned soon.

The Mail on Sunday yesterday reported police are searching for phone sim cards which could hold clues as part of the probe.

Just three days before his arrest, Mr Battie had warned the SNP’s ruling body about potential cash flows problems in the party.

The SNP has been struggling since September to find new auditors after accountants Johnston Carmichael quit.

The Westminster group and the central party, which have respective incomes of £2.5m and £4.5m, are also due to file their 2022 accounts with the Electoral Commission by July 7.

Humza Yousaf has said the party may need to ask for an extension.

Sean Clerkin, the pro-independence activist whose complaint led to the police probe, said: “Around 2,000 good people gave donations and they can get their money back.

“All the people who donated to the SNP for the referendum should be automatically refunded and given an apology from Humza Yousaf because of the question marks over the process.

"I believe that now is the time for the financial coffers of the SNP to be completely open to scrutiny for everyone to see the truth.”

Asked about donation refunds, an SNP spokesperson said: "As the case for Scottish independence becomes more compelling than ever, the SNP is the only party that will ensure Scotland’s priorities are put first, protect Scottish democracy and get rid of the Tories for good.”