THE SNP’s Westminster leader and his predecessor have clashed over the party’s search for auditors. 

Ian Blackford claims he was told on April 7 that new accountants were in place, but that has been disputed by Stephen Flynn, who said no definitive assurance was given. 

The row between the two men threatened to overshadow Humza Yousaf’s first visit to the Westminster group since replacing Nicola Sturgeon. 

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf meeting SNP MPs as fears grow over party finances

Mr Flynn was elected leader of the SNP’s 45-strong MP group on December 6, but he says he was not told about the resignation of the auditor, Johnston Carmichael, until February 10.

Not only did the accountants leave the central party, but they also walked away from the 45-strong Westminster party.

Unless the group can produce an auditor’s certificate by May 31, they could lose £1.2m in Short money, the public funds given to opposition parties by the Commons for parliamentary business. 

That could force the SNP to sack some of its Westminster based staff.

Earlier this month, Mr Blackford gave a categorical assurance that the deadline would be met.

He told the BBC: “I'm being quite specific with you that the deadlines that are there for the SNP Westminster group to submit their accounts will be met.”

🔴 Save on a full year of digital access with our lowest EVER offer.

Subscribe for the whole year to The Herald for only £24 for unlimited website access or £30 for our digital pack.

This is only available for a limited time so don't miss out.

👉 Click here to subscribe

Speaking at an Institute for Government event on Tuesday, Mr Flynn said his predecessor should not have given that commitment. 

“Is it the case that we've been working to secure an audit firm? Absolutely, it's the case. Am I hopeful that we'll be able to do that? Absolutely. 

“Does that equate to having an audit firm in place? Does that equate to having certainty that I will be able to meet the deadlines which have been placed upon us by the House of Commons? No. 

“And I'm not going to provide a categorical assurance in relation to that. And those that have provided categorical assurances in relation to that we'd have probably been wise not to have done so.”

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon says weeks of SNP crisis have been 'traumatic' for her

Asked if Mr Blackford had been lying, the Aberdeen South MP said: “There's a big difference between stating that we are likely to secure an audit firm and having an audit firm. There's also a big difference between seeking to secure an audit firm and being able to provide certainty that you will meet deadlines. 

“Now, I've not sought to in any way suggest that we would definitely meet any of our deadlines or obligations because I don't think that was the right tack to take and indeed the process to secure an auditor is still very much underway as it was when myself and Ian spoke on April 7. 

“So there's obviously steps that we now need to take in order to meet the obligations of the House of Commons. We have been in constant contact with them, and we'll take things from there.”

Mr Blackford took to Twitter to dispute that series of events. 

“Let me be quite categoric that I was phoned on the 7th April by Stephen and told this information,” he tweeted. 

Scottish Tory Chairman Craig Hoy said the fight was emblematic of the “chaos” that has engulfed the SNP. 

He said: “The current and former SNP Westminster leaders are all too happy to air their dirty linen in public. The extraordinary row between Ian Blackford and Stephen Flynn is only escalating and it cannot be the case that both of them are telling the truth.

“Two of the most senior figures within the SNP are at loggerheads and fighting like Nats in a sack. These claims and counterclaims of who knew what and when are getting increasingly ugly.

“There is clearly no love lost between them following Stephen Flynn’s leadership coup last year and it has come to a head during a period where chaos has engulfed the SNP.

"As this duo fight over the situation regarding the party’s auditors, the real priorities of Scotland – such as the cost-of-living crisis, the state of our NHS and the economy – are being totally ignored as this war of words intensifies.”