Humza Yousaf has been accused of “tying himself in knots” after rejecting calls to suspend Nicola Sturgeon from the crisis-hit SNP. The new Scottish First Minister yesterday defended his predecessor after a leaked video appeared to show her dismissing concerns over the party’s finances.
Mr Yousaf said he was not “disturbed” by the clip and added he did not think she should be suspended from the SNP.
Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said Mr Yousaf is “getting himself tied in knots over this issue”.
Mr Hoy told the Daily Mail: “How can he refuse to countenance suspending Nicola Sturgeon, when he has not even spoken to her about the SNP’s murky finances and is vowing not to do so?
“A cynic might say that he doesn’t want to ask questions in case he gets uncomfortable answers.
“The obvious thing to do would be to suspend Nicola Sturgeon unless and until she is cleared. That is the precedent the SNP set in the cases of Michelle Thomson and Natalie McGarry.
“The former First Minister and her former chief executive husband should not get special treatment when they have such serious questions to answer.”
The leaked video, published by the Sunday Mail, appears to show the then-First Minister addressing a meeting of the party’s ruling national executive committee (NEC) in March 2021.
She told the NEC that the party had “never been in a stronger financial position than it is now”.
Ms Sturgeon added: “I’m not going to get into the details … but just be very careful about suggestions that there are problems with the party’s finances because we depend on donors to donate – there are no reasons for people to be concerned about the party’s finances and all of us need to be careful about suggesting that there is.”
After the video surfaced, the Scottish Tories led calls for Ms Sturgeon to be suspended from the SNP, which has been plunged into turmoil by a police probe into its finances.
Asked about the clip after he spoke to at STUC conference in Dundee, defended his predecessor.
He said: “It tends to be the case that you fundraise in advance of an election and tend to spend quite a fair bit of money during an election.
“After the election, of course, is when you want to make sure you can address any cash flow issues that you might have as a result of that big spend.
“I wasn’t particularly disturbed at all by the video in the way that some of our opponents seem to be.”
Mr Yousaf said he did not think Ms Sturgeon, who is staying away from Holyrood this week, would resign as an MSP.
The First Minister said: “We are far past the time of judging what a woman does based on what happens to her husband.”
On if she should be suspended, he said “not at all”.
Asked about talks with Ms Sturgeon, Mr Yousaf said: “Nicola and I will of course speak but what we won’t speak about is the police investigation. Nicola and I both know that we can’t speak about that, nor would it be appropriate for us to speak about that.”
Pressed if he would speak to her about any aspect of the SNP finances, he added: “I just think that while a live police investigation is going on, it would be inappropriate to do. I think that would be, as I say, by any measure an inappropriate thing to do.”
The video was reportedly from a meeting of the ruling body days before a complaint was made to police about the use of £600,000 of donations earmarked for an independence referendum campaign.
A police investigation into the party’s finances earlier this month saw the arrest of Ms Sturgeon’s husband and former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell.
Mr Murrell was released without charge “pending further investigation”.