INDEPENDENCE supporters can trust the SNP with their cash, Humza Yousaf has insisted. 

Speaking to the BBC, the First Minister said the police investigation into the party’s finances and funds was no reason not to donate. 

“We will rely on our grassroots membership to raise those funds for a future independence referendum,” he said. “I’ve no doubt that our members will dig deep.”

Detectives are currently probing whether £660,000 raised specifically for fighting indyref2 was spent on other things.

The party’s former chief executive and treasurer have both been arrested and questioned before being released without charge, pending further investigation. 

READ MORE: SNP kept possible loss of £145,000 grant over auditor crisis a secret

In an interview with Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Yousaf also said he was hopeful Scotland could be independent in the next five years, and that he was confident his party would be able to file their accounts in time.

The SNP leader also said he did not believe there was anything “out of the ordinary” in the time taken by the Crown Office to agree to Police Scotland’s request for a warrant to search Nicola Sturgeon’s home.

On Tuesday, the Scottish Sun revealed that prosecutors took two weeks to agree to the raid.

According to documents released to the paper through Freedom of Information, police applied for the warrant on March 20 - seven days before the end of the SNP leadership contest.

However, the COPFS did not sign off until May 3, a week after Mr Yousaf had been named First Minister. 

Asked if it was normal for the process to take two weeks, Mr Yousaf said that would be a question for the Crown. 

“It's not a question for government or ministers or the First Minister," he said. "We would never dream of interfering neither in a live police investigation, but certainly not in a search warrant.”

“The Lord Advocate, the Solicitor General, who are also members of the government, they will recuse themselves for any decision that has to do with any politician. 

“It's really important, of course, that these processes and these questions that you've got around process are for the Crown.

“I don't believe that there will be any particular reason out of the ordinary that it will take that time but again, it would be a question for the Crown office.”

READ MORE: Questions over time taken by Crown Office on Sturgeon search warrant

When it was put to him that had the news of the search warrant emerged during the leadership contest, it could have made a difference to the result, Mr Yousaf refused to be drawn. 

“I think the decision for the Lord Advocate or in this case, the Crown more generally, would be not to make decisions based on election contests or politics, they make decisions in terms of what is appropriate in relation to the Crown. 

“So really, what you're asking me to do is make an inference about a process that has nothing to do with me. I have no involvement in it. Neither did I. Neither would I.”

Mr Yousaf said the SNP’s troubles had not come up when he’d been out on the campaign trail, knocking doors earlier this month. 

“Nobody mentioned to me police investigation or membership numbers or auditors. They did mention to me how high their energy bills were, or the cost of living or some of the challenges that we still face within the NHS, here in Scotland.

"So that's where my focus is. And the more that we can be seen not just to focus on these issues, but actually deliver on the people's priorities, then I think they'll continue to put our trust in us.”

Asked if he still believed that Scotland will be an independent country in five years' time as he did during the leadership contest, Mr Yousaf replied: “I said I was hopeful that we'd be independent within five years. That will certainly be my aim to do everything I can to advance the cause of independence. 

“We have been denied time and time and time, again, a democratic mandate. 

“And what I'll be doing in my job as first minister and leader of the SNP is focusing on the priorities of the people of Scotland, but also making it really clear if you want us to really tackle things like the cost of living crisis, to not just reduce poverty, but eradicate it, we absolutely need the full power as an independent Scotland and not held back by Westminster Government.”

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When asked if he would have the campaign funds to fight the next general election, and if supporters could trust the party with their money, he replied: “They can and should.”

The First Minister continued: “First and foremost, I have made it clear from the first day that I came into this position that we will have a governance and transparency review. That is very much underway. 

“But secondly, of course, when it comes to transparency, take our membership numbers as a good example... we are still by far the largest, biggest party.

"So although we will, of course, look to donations and so on and so forth like other political parties do, we will rely on our grassroots membership to raise those funds for a future independence referendum.

"I have no doubt that our members will dig deep.”

On the saga over the SNP’s hunt for auditors, Mr Yousaf said he was “confident” the new firm appointed meant the party’s Westminster group would be able file their accounts on time, ensuring they do not lose out on £1.2 million of Short money, the parliamentary funding provided to opposition parties.  

The party struggled to find new accountants after the departure of Johnston Carmichael in October. Mr Yousaf only discovered that the auditors had quit when he became party leader at the end of March. 

The First Minister said he had a job to “rebuild” the party. 

“And that's what I've done. So under my leadership, of course, in the first six weeks of the job, I was able to get an auditor in place to audit our accounts, both in Westminster accounts and party accounts as well. 

“I've got a job to try to rebuild, where, frankly, there were some challenges in the party. I'll do that. But my firm focus, my primary focus always has to be on my job as First Minister, I'm leading the government.”

He said that in the last conversation the party had with the auditors, they were confident in meeting that deadline to file accounts with the Westminster authorities by the end of the month.