Humza Yousaf has denied the Scottish National Party (SNP) faces bankruptcy as he confirmed forensic auditors could be appointed to investigate its finances.
The first minister said a governance and transparency review would be carried out as he insisted the SNP is “solvent”.
Yousaf, speaking shortly after the SNP’s National Executive Council (NEC) met, said: “We’re not close to bankruptcy. This is something I’ve read in some social media circles but, no, the party is solvent.”
He added: “We will ensure we have external input, particularly around the issues of financial oversight.
“So, that may well be forensic accountants, it may well be some other means and method – but I think around the additional financial oversight, external input is really important.”
It comes as Police Scotland investigate the party’s finances in a probe which has involved the former chief executive and husband of Nicola Sturgeon, Peter Murrell, being arrested then released without charge.
Yousaf said the meeting was “positive” and there had been no resignations. He said an interim report on the review is expected in June, with a full report due in autumn, which will be public.
The party is “desperate” to appoint auditors, Yousaf said. It emerged last week he was unaware before becoming leader that the previous auditors resigned over six months ago.
“I’m concerned about the fact that, from my perspective, we could improve our governance and our transparency and I’m concerned about the fact that in six months we haven’t been able to find auditors,” he said.
Yousaf’s comments came at a campaign event in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency, where the party could face a by-election if MP Margaret Ferrier is suspended.
She won the seat in 2019 but was later found to have damaged the reputation of the Commons and to have placed people at risk by failing to self-isolate while knowingly suffering from Covid-19.
The Commons Standards Committee has recommended Ferrier, now an independent MP, is suspended for 30 days, and Parliament is yet to vote on her punishment.
If barred for over 10 days, it could trigger a recall petition which would result in a by-election in her seat, if more than 10 per cent of her constituents supported this going ahead.
With Katrine Bussey, PA Scotland Political Editor