ALEX Salmond’s Alba party is urging disgruntled donors to the SNP’s Indyref2 fund to demand a refund and give it to them instead.

Alba General Secretary Chris McEleny said it would mean the money was “actually spent on an independence campaign”.

The Herald revealed last month how former SNP member James Gardner has secured a refund of £480 in donations despite offering almost no paperwork.

The party’s fundraiser, Jim Henderson, was able to confirm Mr Gardner’s bank account transactions and address through party records.

Mr Gardner, 72, a retired defence industry engineer, said he was glad to get the cash while he could, given the crisis in the SNP’s finances, and urged others to act fast.  

“I might be on the last train out the station,” he said.

READ MORE: SNP donors urged to get Indyref2 refunds while they can

The next day, SNP leader and First Minister Humza Yousaf ruled out any more donations going to unhappy SNP supporters.

“We're not reimbursing people for the donations that they have made,” he told LBC’s Tonight with Andrew Marr on a visit to London last week. “People make donations to the party because they want to advance the cause of independence.” 

It led to speculation about the SNP being afraid of a run on donations because of its financial problems, and doubts a refusal could be justified legally in light of Mr Gardner’s precedent.

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

Subscribe for a 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

Mr Gardner, an SNP member from 2011 to 2019, asked for his money back because of the SNP’s lack of progress on independence and the treatment of former leader Alex Salmond.

Many of Mr Salmond’s supporters left the SNP after he formed Alba in 2021.

Mr McEleny said those who switched and gave to the Indyref2 fund should demand it back.

He said: “Money was donated in good faith by non SNP members,  believing it would be spent on an indyref campaign. The SNP have failed to deliver that referendum. 

“Alba party members should seek a refund of their donations to make sure they actually get spent on an independence campaign.”

The move could kill two birds with one stone for Alba - boost the party’s own coffers, while depleting those of its main rival for pro-independence votes.

The money was given to a “ring-fenced” Indyref2 fund launched by the SNP in early 2017.

That fundraising drive is now being investigated by the police after complaints that some of the £660,000 ultimately raised may have been on other things.

Peter Murrell, the husband of Nicola Sturgeon and the party’s former chief executive, was arrested and released without charge as part of the probe on April 5. 

Then SNP treasurer Colin Beattie was also arrested and released without charge on April 18, and resigned from his treasurer’s post the following day.

The SNP is currently struggling to find auditors to replace a firm that quit last September.

If the party’s Westminster Group, which supports the 45 SNP MPs, fails to secure an auditor’s sign-off by May 31, it will lose access to £1.2million of public funds this year.

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

The MPs’ group and party HQ are also due to file their respective annual accounts for 2022 with the Electoral Commission by July 7.

However the party’s financial disarray, a police investigation and mounting legal bills mean no firm has yet been willing to take them on as a client.

SNP transport minister Kevin Stewart today admitted the situation was “not a great one”, but said he was content to keep paying an MSP’s levy of around £250 a month to party funds. 

He told BBC Radio Scotland: “I've not been asked to give any more money. MSPs already give a fairly substantial monthly sum to the party.”

Asked if he was happy with the way his money was being used at the moment, Mr Stewart said: “I have always been well served by SNP headquarters. 

“I think that the current situation is not a great one. 

“And we need to make sure that we get that right.

“The First Minister has committed to ensuring that party HQ and our finances are in a better stead, and I trust him to do so.”

Asked if he would be willing to give the party more each month, he said: “I already give more than what is required to the party on a monthly basis, and I'm quite happy to do so.”  

The SNP has been asked for a response to McEleny’s remarks.