THE SNP did not tell the House of Commons's authorities the party's auditors had quit for more than four months, The Herald can reveal.

Accountancy firm Johnston Carmichael, which audited the party's accounts, stepped down in September last year but the finance team in the Commons was not informed of the development until Monday 13 February this year.

That was three days after Stephen Flynn was initially told the news on Friday 10 February. 

Sources close to Mr Flynn told The Herald finance staff in the Commons were informed on the first working day after he found out and under his instructions.

The Herald:

Stephen Flynn, the SNP leader at Westminster, instructed that the Commons finance staff be told about the resignation of the party's auditors on the first working day after he found out on February 10.    Photo Getty.

But the development raises questions why the parliamentary officials were not informed under the watch of previous leader Ian Blackford.

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

Last night the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber insisted it was neither his responsibility as leader to tell his successor, nor the Commons' authorities, that the party's auditors had quit.

He said the question was "insulting" when asked why he had not told the Commons finance staff. He said it would have been up to Peter Grant, the party's treasurer at Westminster to do so.

"I think your question is awful and let's leave it at that," he said.

"I am not responsible for the appointment of the auditor and I shouldn't even need to explain that to you.

"What did happen, and this is a matter or record, is that there was a full hand over of all the information to the new team when I was no longer leader.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf says SNP will not refund Indyref2 donations

"I didn't pass that information on because that wouldn't be my responsibility to do so. There is a leadership team and they have dedicated responsibility. Your question is insulting quite frankly. How dare you. How dare you."

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The Herald explained to Mr Blackford that the paper simply wanted to get to the bottom of the matter and that he was party leader at Westminster at the time the auditors resigned.

He replied: "You are assuming that it was my responsibility and it wasn't."

The Herald then said the paper would explain in the story that it was not his responsibility.

SNP sources told The Herald that Mr Grant did not tell the Commons' authorities about the resignation of the auditors as there was no legal requirement to do so.

"There is no legal obligation for the party to alert the House of Commons' authorities about the fact we had lost auditors," said a source.

"So it was an internal matter. Then of course when Stephen was made aware, he then made the decision to alert the authorities on the first working day after he learnt that information."

READ MORE: SNP Westminster group at war as Blackford and Flynn clash

Mr Flynn succeeded Mr Blackford as SNP leader at Westminster in December defeating Alison Thewliss in a short internal election called after Mr Blackford's resignation.

The SNP dismissed suggestions at the time that Mr Flynn had tried to oust his predecessor forcing a contest.

In a BBC interview earlier this month Mr Blackford said he “was told in a timely manner" about the auditor's resignation.  

Asked when exactly when that was, he told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland: “That was towards the tail end of last year after Johnston Carmichael had submitted their resignation."

Last night Labour and the Lib Dems said the lack of information initially provided to the Commons's authorities showed "secrecy" at the heart of the SNP's operations.

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

Scottish Labour Ian Murray MP said: "It's plain for all to see that Ian Blackford left Stephen Flynn high and dry.

"Had Stephen Flynn known of the state of the finances one wonders if he wold have bothered launching his coup d'etat.  It is bad form that the SNP top brass at Westminster kept everyone - including the Commons's authorities - in the dark to spare their blushes. Secrecy and cover-up are at the heart of the SNP. The people of Scotland deserve better than this."

Lib Dem Scottish affairs spokeswoman Christine Jardine MP said: "I find it difficult to be surprised at anything the SNP does or doesn't do anymore.

"Not telling the Commons's authorities until months later seems like an error of judgment.

"Even their new Westminster leader Stephen Flynn seems to have been kept out of the loop so it's no surprise that they didn't flag this to parliamentary authorities."

She added: "If the SNP cannot be trusted with their own purse strings, how can they be trusted with those of an entire country?"

Earlier today First Minister Humza Yousaf conceded the SNP was struggling to recruit a firm to audit the party's Westminster accounts by a deadline at the end of next month.

Unless the group can provide an auditor’s certificate by May 31 to the House of Commons's Accounting Officer, 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 made some of its Westminster based staff redundant.

Earlier this month, Mr Blackford gave a categorical assurance that the May 31 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.”

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," said the Aberdeen South MP.

“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.”

The House of Commons said it wouldn't give running commentaries on correspondence between the House and MPs or parties.

Earlier this month Mr Yousaf said he didn’t know about the resignation of the Johnston Carmichael, who also audited the SNP's wider party accounts, until he was briefed upon becoming SNP leader in late March. The development was made public on April 7.