WELL that was strange. Scotland’s First Minister travels to London for his first face-to-face meeting with the UK Prime Minister and achieves what exactly?

The two men had already spoken on the phone, but meeting in person marked an important milestone in the relationship, not least because it was the chance for the visitor to bag that all-important “Here’s me in front of the door at Number Ten” photo.

Everyone gets that photo. From school parties to heads of state, up and down Downing Street they march, the PM popping out to do the honours for the cameras. Grin, grip, takes two seconds, lasts a lifetime on the office wall.

Yet it was not to be for Humza Yousaf. The First Minister met Rishi Sunak not at Number 10 but well away from the public gaze in the Prime Minister’s office in the Commons, with no official photo taken. The meeting took place so late in the day most of the parliamentary press had gone home by the time it finished. Odd.

READ MORE: Sturgeon says crisis has been traumatic

If the First Minister felt snubbed he was determined not to show it. Indeed, he pronounced the Prime Minister “perfectly affable enough”. This was a love bomb compared to the welcome his predecessor, Nicola Sturgeon, gave certain visitors. Ms Sturgeon used to stand at the front door of Bute House as though it was the gateway to heaven, and the names of Tory Prime Ministers were most definitely not on her list.

Chances are Mr Sunak was not out for revenge. Why should he care what happened to Boris Johnson? More to the point, why expend any energy in making the SNP and its leader look bad when they are doing such a terrific job of it on their own?

Why Mr Yousaf felt it necessary to head to London when there is so much to be done at home is for him to explain, probably at the next First Minister’s Questions. But in doing so he has drawn attention to the next phase in his party’s crisis. As much as the SNP has had a torrid time of late, matters could be about to get worse, much worse, and it is all down to Harold Wilson.

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It was the Labour Prime Minister who came up with the idea of giving Opposition parties cash to help them hold government to account. Short Money, named after Edward Short, the minister who introduced the scheme in 1975, is popular with parties, as you can imagine. Free money generally is.

But there was, and continues to be, a noble idea at the heart of the fund. It gives opposition parties a fighting chance against a government that can call on help from the massed ranks of civil servants, and in recent times special advisers, paid for from the public purse. A helping hand to the various Davids in their battles with a governmental Goliath.

READ MORE: Fears grow over party funding

Short Money achieves this in the main by funding the employment of researchers or other assistants. If the party is smart, these will be people who have expertise in a particular field, the better to ferret out information that could embarrass the government or otherwise hold ministers to account. Any half-decent opposition has these backroom staff. The part they play is generally unseen and their efforts unheralded, but at their best they can make a fairly unremarkable opposition party look like a government in waiting.

The SNP, as the third largest party in the UK Parliament, does well out of Short Money. Based on the number of MPs it has, the party receives close to £1.2 million, which goes in the main on employing some 25 staff.

As with other parties, the party can distribute the pot of cash as it likes, as long as it can show the money has been spent on carrying out parliamentary business (and not, for instance, campaigning). To that end, the party must provide the Clerk of the House of Commons with an auditor’s certificate confirming this. This, in turn, can only be supplied once the auditor has been through the books.

There are three things to remember about Short Money. First, it is public money. Second, parties are fiercely protective of it and don’t like it being called into question, as it has been in the past. Third, the Commons authorities can make HMRC look like the cuddliest, sleepiest pussycats when it comes to accounting for every last pound and penny.

It should be a straightforward enough business; these are not vast sums overall. But as with other matters the SNP now finds itself in a mess of its own making. With its auditors quitting the party last year, and the chances of hiring another firm now looking slim to non-existent, there is every chance the SNP will not be able to file its accounts by the deadline. No auditor’s certificate means no more money.

READ MORE: SNP's former treasurer says he did not know about motorhome

That is bad news for the image of the party. But it is worse for the staff who rely on this money to pay the bills. This is about more than figures on a balance sheet, important as they are. This is about real individuals who could be out of a job very soon. Their only hope at this point is that the party leadership can throw itself on the mercy of the Commons authorities and secure an extension to the deadline.

How has the party managed to get itself into another not-so-fine mess? Good luck making any sense out of the war of words between the SNP’s current leader at Westminster, Stephen Flynn, and the previous holder of the role, Ian Blackford, as to who knew what about the lack of an auditor and when.

Mr Blackford says all “relevant information” was handed over to the new leader last December. Mr Flynn says he only found out in February.

Any way you look at it, this is a party so dysfunctional its leading members cannot speak to each other face-to-face about the most basic matters. As a result, the task required has not been done and obvious, harmful consequences will follow.

For Westminster read Scotland? That is the fear. Stuck as we are in this whirlwind of claim and counterclaim, of so many questions but no answers, we can only guess what this rolling chaos has cost, and will continue to cost, Scotland. Slowly but surely the bills are falling due.