On 28th June, inside the bamboo cage-like structure that is the Scottish Parliament, Nicola Sturgeon announced her inevitable launch of ‘Indyref2’. The First Minister looked smitten with joy as she proposed her October 2023 plan for the second Scottish independence referendum, not even a decade after the failure of the first “once in a generation” attempt. Sturgeon launched into her pseudo-Braveheart speech by stating that, “The campaign to establish this Parliament was long and hard. It was rooted in the belief that self-government would improve the lives of those who live here. And so it has proved”.
However, those living in Sturgeon’s own constituency, which she has governed since 2007, may beg to differ. Glasgow Southside now has more children than ever before living in poverty (just under 50%) and a staggering 69% of children in Govanhill West (situated in Glasgow Southside) are now living in poverty — the highest figure anywhere in the whole of the United Kingdom. The devolved Scottish parliament, which has become the HQ of Scottish nationalism since its inception in 1999, deemed by Sturgeon to have improved the lives of all those living in Scotland, may have also missed the memo when it comes to drug deaths.
Scotland now has an all-time record of drug related deaths and possesses the highest rates in the whole of Europe with over 300 per million people. To put these shocking figures in context, collectively the rest of the UK has fewer than 100. Of course, for Sturgeon the blame for all this lies at the door of Westminster and has absolutely nothing to do with her or her idealistic party. However, her complicity is clear and the problem lies in her ideal. By consistently pushing for Scottish independence, the people of Scotland and their real problems are always second on the list of the First Minister’s priorities behind the SNP’s wet dream of a ‘free’ nation. This has yet again been exposed by the current scandal of the hidden and misspent funding of the party which Sturgeon and her peers are desperately attempting to sweep under the proverbial rug.
The entire fundraising section was similarly swept into the abyss
The SNP are currently under a police investigation for the fraudulent spending (or lack thereof) of £600,000, fundraised from independence supporters through the website ScotRef. This investigation (code-named ‘Operation Branchform’) has been ongoing since September 2021, when Police Scotland obtained a warrant authorised by the Crown Office for the acquisition of the financial documents of the party.
So where did this all begin? ScotRef was initially launched in March 2017. The site appealed for funding for the ‘Indyref2’ campaign and was accompanied by a video address from the First Minister. Was this website an official representation of the SNP? Well, yes, but not that they wanted you to know. Only a minuscule sentence in small print at the bottom of the page highlighted to the reader that this was official government business, with the site being “promoted by Peter Murrell on behalf of the Scottish National Party”. Things started to get sketchy after James Kelly of Scottish Labour requested the Electoral Commission formally investigate the SNP’s involvement in the site and their appeal for funds. Following Kelly’s appeal, Sturgeon’s cameo on the website was removed before the entire fundraising section was similarly swept into the abyss.
The SNP’s response to the growing speculation was equally dubious, stating that all the money raised on #ScotRef website is ringfenced to fight a future independence referendum. Whatever the party think ‘ringfenced’ means is certainly hard to understand, especially when their published 2019 accounts revealed that they had just £96,854 “cash in hand at bank” (down from £411,042 in 2018) and a “total net (liabilities) / assets” of £271,916 (down from £591,077 in 2018). So where did that £600,000 of ‘ringfenced’ money go?
There is clearly something going on. Three members of the party’s Finance and Audit Committee collectively resigned in 2021 after SNP Chief Executive Peter Murrell (also conveniently the husband of Sturgeon) refused them full access to the party’s books. Then came a resignation from the new National Treasurer Douglas Chapman in May 2021, stating that “despite having a resounding mandate from members to introduce more transparency into the party’s finances, I have not received the support or financial information to carry out the fiduciary duties of National Treasurer”. This was followed by Joanna Cherry resigning from the SNP National Executive Committee, citing a “number of factors”, which prevented her from improving, “transparency”, within the party. Sturgeon’s response to all this? The SNP’s funding is managed on a “cash flow basis” — ah yes, that historically trustworthy and sound financial management scheme. The party’s published 2021 accounts revealed that they spent over £600,000 refurbishing their offices, so maybe this is where some of that donated money for the hallowed second referendum went — after all, one cannot break free from the Union without a comfy desk chair.
It’s fair to say we Scots have a right to be passionately angry about all this missing money
As you peel back more layers of this corrupt onion, a wider conspiracy comes into view. The Crown Office are reported to have forcefully asked Police Scotland to change their wording of this investigation to a “fact-finding mission”, leaving the police, “stunned that the Crown was putting them in that position”. Why would the Crown Office try to understate the inquiry? Could it have something to do with the leader of the Crown Office being none other than the Lord Advocate, a prominent member of Sturgeon’s cabinet government? My tin-foil hat is twitching.
Couple this fiasco with the findings of Audit Scotland in March this year, who could not conclude where five billion pounds of Covid-19 funding (donated from those tyrants down in Westminster) was spent and the whole integrity of the SNP seems up for question. With drug deaths and child poverty at a record high and hundreds of independent businesses killed during the pandemic, it’s fair to say we Scots have a right to be passionately angry about all this missing money. The idea of Scotland leaving the United Kingdom with no Westminster funding, no currency and no economic security seems about as holey as Swiss cheese; especially when the proposed break is going to be overseen by a party who have about as much financial integrity as a pyramid scheme.
20 August 2022: Callum Clark: https://www.palatinate.org.uk/show-me-the-money/