An emotional Nicola Sturgeon has told reporters at Holyrood she could not have anticipated the events the SNP has faced in the police investigation into its finances in her “worst nightmares”.
The former first minister appeared in public at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday for the first time since her husband, former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, was arrested on April 5 before being released without charge pending further investigation.
Ms Sturgeon said: “What I will say up front is that I’m not going to go into any detail that impinges on a live police investigation, there are many questions that I would want to be able to answer and in the fullness of time I hope I will answer, but it would be wrong and inappropriate for me to go into any detail of what the police are currently investigating.
“I understand the view that some people might have, that I knew this was all about to unfold and that’s why I walked away.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. I could not have anticipated in my worst nightmares what would have unfolded over the past few weeks.”
She said “now is not the easiest time”, and she has been working from home recently.
Asked if she has been questioned by police, she said: “No.”
She said: “Clearly the events of the last few weeks have been difficult and – I use this word advisedly and deliberately – in some respects very traumatic.
“But I accept that is the nature of the process that is under way right now.”
She refused to comment on the campervan seized by police from the home of her husband’s mother, citing the live police investigation.
Earlier, Mr Beattie said he was not aware of the purchase of the vehicle – which is valued at up to £110,000 – despite reports it was planned to be used for party campaigning.
In a statement issued later in the day, he said: “This afternoon I was asked if I knew about the motorhome purchase to which I answered no.
“Given some of the coverage of this answer, I believe it is important to clarify that I was unaware of the transaction at the time of purchase.
“I became aware of the transaction via the 2021 annual accounts.”
Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said: “If this farce wasn’t so serious it would be comical.
“It’s little wonder the public have lost all faith in the scandal-ridden SNP when leading figures like Colin Beattie can’t even get their stories straight.
“The SNP need to stop treating people like fools and finally start being upfront and transparent.”
Despite the police investigation, the former first minister said the party is “in good shape”.
She said: “I believe the SNP, notwithstanding the real difficulties that surrounds the party just now, is in good shape and I think Humza (Yousaf) will take it to an even better place.”
“Her attempt to downplay the extraordinary chaos we’re seeing in the SNP is an insult to the public’s intelligence.
“That Nicola Sturgeon is proud of a leadership that failed even by its own metrics and ended in the grotesque spectacle of a police raid on her home shows that she has completely lost touch.
“The same old secrecy and spin from Nicola Sturgeon won’t cut it anymore – we need real answers about the scandal and sleaze engulfing the SNP.”
Ms Sturgeon’s comments came hours after Mr Beattie, who remains an SNP MSP, spoke to journalists at Holyrood for the first time since being arrested last week.
He stepped down as treasurer following his arrest.
The vehicle was bought by the party but apparently never used.
Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Beattie was asked if he knew about the purchase of the motorhome.
He replied: “No I didn’t know about it.”
He also denied that the SNP is in financial difficulty, insisting: “The SNP is in the black.”
Asked if the party is “not going bust”, Mr Beattie said: “We’re a going concern, definitely.”
Mr Beattie went on to say that the SNP’s difficulty in finding auditors is due to the “market situation”.
The MSP was also asked if his arrest was the worst thing which has ever happened to him.
He replied: “No, I was in Beirut actually when I was under artillery fire.
“That was worse.”
Later on Tuesday, the SNP’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn was asked about the motorhome as he spoke at an Institute for Government event in London.
He said he became aware of the purchase “when it was printed on the front of a newspaper”.