Flynn: SNP Westminster group could miss out on £1.2m if accounts deadline missed

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The SNP’s Westminster group could miss out on more than £1 million if it fails to file accounts by the end of May, MP Stephen Flynn has warned.

Mr Flynn, who leads the SNP in the House of Commons, said the party is doing “everything possible” to meet this deadline but finding auditors for the group is proving difficult.

He also revealed that he only became aware of the lack of auditors on February 10, despite becoming the group’s leader in December.

Separate accounts need to be submitted for the Westminster group by May 31 in order to receive “Short money” – public funding for opposition parties to carry out their parliamentary work.

The SNP as a whole is also currently lacking auditors, meaning the Electoral Commission could take action if accounts are not submitted on time.

Both men were released without charge pending further inquiry.

Mr Flynn was asked about the Westminster group’s difficulty in finding auditors as he appeared on the Good Morning Scotland radio programme.

He said: “I thought it would be a relatively straightforward process to go and secure new auditors. That’s obviously proven not to be the case.”

This is partly due to the fact that the financial year is nearing its end as well as the overall challenges in the party’s finances, he said.

He continued: “We need to have our accounts for Short money in place by May 31, I believe.

“So every effort that can be made to ensure that happens is being made and of course we’re in contact with the House of Commons authorities meantime in relation to it.”

He said he understands that the SNP will miss out on around £1.2 million in Short money if accounts are not submitted by this deadline, describing it as a “situation which is in a state of flux”.

Mr Flynn continued: “I wouldn’t want to incur any concern amongst staff that we aren’t going to be able to meet our deadlines.

“We’re doing everything possible to ensure that that is the case.”

It was put to him that his predecessor, Ian Blackford, had said that all “relevant information” was handed over to the new leader during the changeover in December.

Mr Flynn said: “There may well have been discussions between other people but certainly, in relation to myself, I became fully aware of the situation on February 10.”

He said he did not receive the £33,000 salary boost which former Westminster leader Angus Robertson enjoyed.

Mr Flynn said the salary top-up is “not something which I’m overly surprised about” given the additional responsibilities of the role.

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said it was “jaw-dropping” that Mr Flynn had not known about the lack of auditors before February.

He said: “It is astonishing that it took more than two months for Stephen Flynn to be informed of his party’s auditors quitting after he took over from Ian Blackford.

“Ian Blackford has serious and urgent questions to answer over why Stephen Flynn wasn’t told sooner about this – especially when he previously insisted all relevant information was passed when the Westminster leadership changed hands.

“He cannot attempt to cloak these in secrecy as the party has been doing on key questions for far too long.

“The SNP are in total meltdown and the public deserve answers over the increasingly murky situation surrounding their finances.

“Ordinary SNP staff, who could ultimately lose their jobs as a result, will be deeply alarmed that Flynn could also not give any guarantees that new auditors will be in place for crucial reporting deadlines next month, once again contradicting Ian Blackford’s assurances.”

Speaking to the PA news agency on Monday, Scottish Health Secretary Michael Matheson said: “It’s a Westminster party process and I’ve got that Stephen Flynn and the team down there will be working to put in place an auditor for that particular process, but that’s clearly a matter for the Westminster group to take forward and I’ve got no doubt they’re doing everything they can to make sure they have appropriate auditors in place to meet the parliamentary requirements.”

Meanwhile, the SNP announced on Monday a rise in membership figures, with a total of 74,889 registered members as of April 21, the party said.

The last known membership put the number at 82,598 as of December 31 of last year, while 738 people joined since Humza Yousaf took the reins of the party.

Depute leader Keith Brown said “people across Scotland can see that only the SNP puts Scotland’s priorities first”, adding: “I am pleased to see this reflected in the recent increase in our membership under our new leader, Humza Yousaf.”

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