Where is the money?

We are accustomed to seeing the British parties mired in financial scandal. From MP’s expenses to tales of “dirty money” financing the Leave campaign to the currently growing furore about pandemic-related contracts, it seems there’s never a time when the British parties aren’t in the shadow of one allegation of fiscal shenanigans or another. Except, perhaps, when they’re in opposition. But that’s only because being Her Majesty’s loyal opposition doesn’t offer the same opportunities for (allegedly) dipping the till. Out of government, the British parties generally have to make do with sex scandals or some ill-considered social media comments about how the Holocaust was all just a horrible misunderstanding.

We are not accustomed to the SNP being the subject of allegations of financial misconduct. Not that the British establishment hasn’t tried very hard indeed to dig up some dirt. Every cupboard the SNP has or ever did have has been repeatedly and thoroughly ransacked in a desperate search for skeletons. No more than the odd bone has been turned up and duly thrown to the media pack in the hope they could make a meal of it. Much mud has been thrown at the SNP. Very little of it has stuck. Until recently.

One of the reasons the mud has failed to stick is that because it’s being thrown by British politicians and the British media there’s always a strong suspicion that it’s not really mud at all. It’s not that the SNP was necessarily squeaky clean but that they could hardly be other than pristine compared to those whose snouts had been in or near the trough of public money for generations. Again, there’s the matter of opportunity. It’s easy to look clean when you’re standing next to a British politician. It’s easy to be thought clean when nobody believes a word that comes from the mouths of you accusers. It’s easy to be clean when there’s so little cash flowing through your hands that even the tiniest discrepancy will be obvious.

It must also be acknowledged that there was pretty good accountability in the SNP too. Relative to the British parties the SNP was but a youngster. Too young to have developed any bad habits. The party’s leaders and managers were answerable directly to members. It was a pretty tight ship. That’s all changed.

It’s never easy to pin down a precise moment when such change occurs. It rarely happens all at once. But we can usually identify the most significant point. The SNP was changed by the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament. Of that there can be no doubt. For the first time in its history it became a potential party of government. That’s an entirely different thing from being a fringe party with not the slightest hope of ever getting anywhere near the corridors of power. Initially, however, the SNP changed for the better with devolution. I have long maintained that the SNP was exceptional because its very immaturity and inexperience meant it was better able to adapt to the new milieu. In particular, the SNP was advantaged by the electoral system. That may seem a controversial claim. It is commonly believed – or at least, frequently maintained – that the voting system was contrived specifically to keep the SNP away from effective political power. Or rather to keep effective political power away from the SNP. In fact, nobody envisaged the SNP and real power ever getting within sight of one another. The voting system was set up to ensure that no party could ever dominate in the way that the winners of British elections do. It wasn’t about keeping the SNP out. It was about keeping the Scottish Parliament and by extension the Scottish Government (or Executive as it was then) weak.

The overarching imperatives driving the creation of British devolution had absolutely nothing to do with improving democracy or governance and everything to do with maintaining the status quo. The Scottish Parliament must never become a power base for any one of the British parties and, most crucially of all, the Union must never be put in jeopardy. The rest was pretty much incidental.

Quite unintentionally, the voting system worked to the advantage of the SNP because, not being hidebound by ideology and rendered inflexible by internal empire-building and constrained by tradition as the British parties, the SNP was able to respond to the feedback mechanism created by proportional representation. Over the early years of devolution the SNP changed to become the party the public wanted. It’s flexibility and adaptability paid huge dividends. The SNP reaped the rewards in the 2007 and 2011 elections and has largely been living on its reputation ever since.

It probably started to go wrong in the aftermath of the 2014 referendum. In a way, the SNP was a victim of its success. To a far greater extent the party was both the beneficiary and victim of the Yes movement’s success. The extraordinary and quite unexpected surge in membership after the first referendum put strains on the party’s structures and internal procedures which were never adequately addressed. The rot set in.

Here comes the ‘Telt ye!’ bit!

Ah telt ye!

I did. Sort of. Although for obvious reasons I didn’t make public my concerns about the “rot” they were a significant part of the reasoning which led me to conclude that the new referendum must be held no later than September 2018. Think back to the state of the SNP and the independence movement in the period between 2015 and 2018 and you will see the ripe belly of a cause straining to give birth to an ideal. Everything was ready. All the pieces were on the table and needed only the will to bring them together. The momentum was there needing only to be seized. Forget the polls! The polls don’t determine outcomes! Effective campaigning does!

This state of readiness could not be maintained indefinitely. I calculated that by 2018 the moment would have passed. And so it was. The opportunity was missed. And for the SNP it has been a slow, stuttering but inexorable slide downhill ever since. And here we are.

I’m not about to catalogue the troubles that have beset the SNP over the last couple of years – and continue to do so. I will merely note that the latest scandal-in-waiting looks like having the potential to be the aphoristic straw so dreaded by camels. One blogger neatly, if intemperately and inaccurately, summarises the situation thus,

It is now common knowledge that the £700,000 raised and ring fenced for an independence referendum by the SNP has been spent.

Show Me The Money, Barrhead Boy

It can’t be knowledge. In the absence of conclusive proof it must remain no more than a suspicion. It certainly isn’t “common knowledge” because many (most?) people will decline to regard it as such until they’ve seen that proof. And the figure of £700,000 is at best disputed. But we can hardly condemn the author of this comment too harshly. Such is the excessive language which must inevitably full the void left by a lack (absence?) of openness and transparency. Surely the SNP’s leadership and managers know this?

Surely they must have seen this coming? One of the most rigorous and relentless forensic journalists around has been on the case for months. I’m not prepared to believe that the SNP could possibly have been unaware of Stu Campbell’s articles on the matter at Wings Over Scotland. Why were they not better prepared. Party Treasurer Colin Beattie – a man whose integrity I would not think to question – was apparently forced into making an unprecedented and quite unsatisfactory statement on the matter. Why? Either this situation could have been defused before it even became a situation never mind a scandal or it couldn’t for reasons which form the very core of the suspicion now hanging over the party hierarchy like a looming black cloud.

It looks as if the SNP leadership and managers actually thought nobody would ask questions the donated cash supposedly set aside for a referendum campaign. It seems as if they continued to be convinced of this even when people were asking questions about the donated cash supposedly set aside for a referendum campaign. And doing so with increasing stridency. Are those in the inner circle and upper echelons of the SNP all totally deaf and blind?

I intend making no further comment on the issue of the supposedly ring-fenced money or the allegations of it having been spent illegitimately. I prefer to bide my time and haud ma wheesht until there is a bit more clarity about the situation. It’s not hasty and pejorative conclusions we need but prompt and comprehensive explanations. It’s only money, after all. Even if it is ‘unaccounted’ families aren’t downing in the English Channel as a consequence. But a proper accounting must be forthcoming immediately.

Of at least equal concern to me to any of these ‘scandals’ – pending as well as active – is the way the party has handled the issues. Or mishandled. Or failed to handle at all in any way. It’s all very well condemning and penalising anybody who is at fault. But if we don’t understand what went wrong we’ll stand no chance of putting it right.

In one of those quirks of historical happenstance which provide rich fodder for conspiracy theorists the SNP’s troubles all seem to be coming to ahead just in time for the party conference at the end of November. I’m thinking of submitting a resolution.

Conference respectfully demands to know what the fuck is going on!


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14 thoughts on “Where is the money?

  1. Add my name to that. My membership number is available on request. Precisely those words.

    Conference respectfully demands to know what the fuck is going on.

    With enough signatures beneath, it would be difficult to ignore.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I second your resolution.

    As an SNP member and a donater to the #ScotRef campaign fund in 2017 I still have not received Mr Beattie’s ‘explanatory’ email that he apparently sent to all those who supported the 2017 request for money. I don’t think I’m alone in this, although I think this is probably more down to inefficiency rather than conspiracy (as Mr Beattie would surely not have announced this publicly if that had not been his intention to follow through on emailing contributors).

    However, the list is growing:

    1. Financial accounts shenanigans
    2. Alex Salmond affair (Judicial Review/Criminal Trial/Committee Inquiry)
    3. NEC MSP selection gerrymandering
    4. “Woke” wing insane policies

    I hope I’m wrong but something seems to be rotten with the state of the SNP.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Leaving aside the issue that he should have stepped down when his wife was elected as party leader – because, as a minimum, it was never a good look – and on the basis of “never ascribe to malice that which can be ascribed to incompetence” – it’s becoming ever inceasingly clear that Old Boy Murrell has been asleep at the wheel for a long, long time now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t agree with any of that. People don’t lose their individuality when they marry. Try coming at it from another direction. Try saying Nicola Sturgeon being married to Peter Murrell meant she had no right to be a candidate for the post of party leader.

      If you’ve ever been to an SNP conference you would be a bit less inclined to accuse Peter Murrell of being “asleep at the wheel”. These are (were?) massive events. He had a team under him, of course. But Murrell was running the show. And making a bloody good job of it.

      It has to be acknowledged, however, that there are aspects of the HQ operation that need looking at. I would suggest they bring in an independent consultant to cast a fresh eye over things. I recognise what an unpopular move that would be in certain quarters. My carefully worded response would be, fuck ’em! If the don’t like it they can be reminded that their feet are not nailed to the floor.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. The problem with the SNP is that they react as though they’re guilty, even when they’re innocent. So it’s hard to tell the difference.

    Luckily the “ring-fenced fund” will only affect those who are firm YESsers, so perhaps the undecided or soft NOes will either think it’s funny (which is good, humouor attracts) – or won’t even notice.

    Like

  5. Where is this £700k figure from? What is it WoS hopes to achieve with his constant SNP bad rhetoric? Political Parties employ accounts to do their best to save them money. Creative Accounting is legal. I’m sure Elec Comm would have spotted dodgy dealings? So fan I’ve not seen any accountants commenting on the story..the accounts are downloadable from EC site. WoS only posted 1 page. Tories claim to have about same ‘cash in bank’ ??

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    1. Utter rubbish.

      Wings posted the entire document – if you are too lazy to click the link represented by the ‘single page’ then that is your problem.

      I’ve seen plenty of SNP members who are qualified auditors and accountants comment in support of the article and even more comment with derision on the ‘explanation’ provided by the National Treasurer.

      One would have hoped that if stealing their dreams wasn’t enough to wake the cult from its collective slumber then stealing their money would be. Seems not.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Yesindyref2 Luckily the “ring-fenced fund” will only affect those who are firm YESsers, so if it is corruption or misused ringfenced funds donated for a specific purpose by people who may not have a lot to give , that’s okay we can all carry on and just treat it as a laugh, I remember a certain poster on WOS getting upset when his donation was continuously berated by another poster, the original poster explained the figure was all he could afford at the time, but I suppose the 2nd poster could have just said he was having a laugh. And BTW I thought it was absolutely despicable and not a laugh

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fair point, twathater, I didn’t phrase it very well, and didn’t put it in context. Which was from Peter’s article “It’s only money, after all.”. Yes it is, and hopefully the issue as it is at the moment won’t do any damage to the current 58% in the polls. That’s what I was trying to say.

      As to the fund itself, £591,000 of it, I looked at the last 4 sets of financial statements (they’re not full acounts) of the central party when this story went berserk, and particualrly the notes to the financial statements. You can see a large figure going in, and possibly moving around over the years.

      The thing is that before that Ref.scot crowdfunder came in, the SNP as Beattie says, had negative balances – but still managed to fight elections, 2015 GE (56 MPs), Holyrood 2016 (63 MSPs, just short an overall majority), and the Councils where they also did well. But at no time I’d say were they working off any positive balance, they borrowed, got credit, got more donations, borrowed from other accounting units, sold raffle tickets – and managed. That’s the way a lot of businesses actually work – hand to mouth. For some it could be argued that a bank balance with a lot of money sitting idle in it would be a sign of financial stupidity – make your money work for you. In some respects even a party is a business.

      And that’s likely the case for the £591,000 – it’s maybe not there as a lump sum, but would be made available at need – for Indy Ref 2. And don’t forget that unusually the 2019 GE was in December – the very month of the year end for the SNP accounting period. Had it been May there would already have been 7 months membership fees, donations and other sums in there.

      But as for the rest of it, I totally agree with Peter on this also: “But a proper accounting must be forthcoming immediately”.

      Either “Oh yes, the money is here, here’s a redacted picture of the receipts and balances”, or similar to what I wrote above “We have some cash to start with, will take more out of 3 months accruals, and will borrow up to £500,000, our current overdraft limit. As well as a new crowdfunder to get to that Million and beyond!”. It needs openness and transparency. As I said, the SNP have an awfy habit of curling up in a ball and looking guilty, when probably it’s just business and cashflow as normal.

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  7. Thanks for your response yesindyref2 or dads as once was ,WE ALL want the same thing, indy but being an old cynic I don’t believe it will come with Sturgeon and murrell at the head IMO they have done too much damage to the party and my trust in them is NIL, I fervently hope this investigation will see the removal of them and their lunatic clique, I also believe the MSM are pausing their artillery until nearer HR and the NORMAL voters will be disgusted by the revelations

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m fairly neutral on the Sturgeon / Murrell thing. I do think her handling of Covid has helped the YES polling go up to 58%, particularly or maybe just because, compared to BoJo. And she also admits she wasn’t perfect, got things wrong. It’s a rare and valuable asset, and strangely enough one that BoJo tried to copy once or twice, not very well. One that maybe Beattie could copy. Without Wings, whatever people think these days, I don’t think the SNP would have got half the MPs they got in 2015. It held people together and focussed them, after the trauma of the Ref. Below the line, as well as above.

      As for Murrell I think he saw his job as supporting, protecting and advising Sturgeon and dare I say, neglected his actual job a little. Well, would people prefer a perfect CEO and only a few elected politicians, or a very imperfect CEO but a lot of elected members? “He didn’t answer my email, sob” as Ken might have said. So perhaps while the big cat’s away, the mice have run away with the cheese.

      I both criticise and support Sturgeon and get attacked by everybody. Life is a blast 🙂

      Like

    1. Pass on that one, but I did contribute. There is a speech coming on St. Andrews Day. It’d better not be a platitudinous “Independence is nearer” heap of great sounding but smelly poo. The next Millennium is getting nearer too. No poo on my shoe! And it’s good night to you.

      Like

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