1 of 2 | Scottish National Party Leader Humza Yousaf has assumed the role of treasurer after MP Colin Beattie resigned following his arrest into a probe into misuse of the party's finances. File Photo by Robert Perry/EPA-EFE
April 20 (UPI) -- The treasurer of Scotland's ruling Scottish National Party has resigned after being arrested by police investigating the party's alleged misuse of $745,000 in independence campaign donations to pay for the party's operating costs.
Colin Beattie, the MSP for Midlothian North, who was questioned and released under investigation said in a statement posted on his Twitter account Wednesday that he was standing down to avoid being a further distraction to new party leader Humza Yousaf's work to get the embattled party back on track.
"I have also informed the SNP Chief Whip at Holyrood that I will be stepping back from my role on the Public Audit Committee until the police investigation has concluded," said Beattie who also pledged to cooperate fully with Police Scotland.
SNP's Constitution and Electoral Commission rules dictate that the party leader automatically assumes the role of treasurer until a replacement is appointed, which Yousaf said would take place "as soon as possible."
Yousaf also offered thanks to Beattie upon his departure.
"I know that his decision to step back from the role of SNP national treasurer will not have been an easy one but he has done so in the best interest of the party," he said.
Deputy first minister Shona Robison said Yousaf had taken "very swift action to ensure that party members, as well as the public, can be confident in the future governance and transparency of the party.
"We've got to absolutely get our house in order, the public will expect nothing else, but meanwhile we also have to address some of those concerns that the public have about other matters like the cost-of-living crisis," Robison said.
But opposition parties criticized Yousaf for failing to tackle the crisis head-on.
"This is the right decision, made by the wrong man," said Scottish Labor deputy leader Jackie Baillie. "While Humza Yousaf played for time and failed to do the right thing, Colin Beattie at least could see the writing on the wall.
"For too long, a culture of secrecy and cover-up has been allowed to fester at the heart of the SNP," she added. "And while the investigation spreads, the SNP is still refusing to take the basic step of suspending MSPs who are the subject of police inquiries. Humza Yousaf's failure to act has made it clear -- his priority is the cover-up to protect the SNP, not the people of Scotland."
Beattie's arrest on Tuesday came two weeks after party chief executive Peter Murrell, who is the husband of former first minister and party leader, Nicola Sturgeon, was arrested in a raid on the couple's Glasgow home and held in police detention overnight. He was also released without charge.
Scottish Conservative Party Chairman Craig Hoy is also calling on Yousaf to suspend Beattie, Murrell and Sturgeon from the party saying the probe was "consuming" the SNP.
Beattie, 71, was serving a second term as national treasurer having previously held the post from 2004 to 2020, returning to the role in 2021 to replace Douglas Chapman, who quit in a row over accusations the party restricted his access to its financial information.
Earlier this month, the SNP announced its contract with its accountants, Johnston Carmichael, had ended. The firm made the move reportedly months prior to Murrell's arrest following a review of its "client portfolio and existing resources and commitments," a decision that left the party without auditors for six months.