COLIN BEATTIE, the SNP’s national treasurer has issued a new statement attempting to explain away the concerns surrounding the allegedly missing ‘frozen’ funds for a second independence referendum. The only problem is, his latest statement appears to contradict previous ones.
Since I wrote my previous article on this subject Colin Beattie (pictured) has issued a new statement concerning the ‘ring-fenced’ referendum fund. In his statement he responds to concerns raised regarding ‘independence related appeals since 2017’. So, he is referring to the allegedly missing ‘ring-fenced’ indyref2 fund.
The only problem for Mr Colin Beattie is that we can detect a subtly shifting story.
For example, Mr Beattie now refers to ‘earmarked’ funds being spent “for independence related campaigning”. This is worth pausing on. Not least since Colin Beattie back in October 2020 explained that the ‘ring-fenced’ money “remains earmarked for the referendum and are ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice”. So, between October 2020 and June 2021 the money that was specifically for a future referendum is now being referred to as having the much broader purpose of “independence related campaigning”.
Beattie goes on in his latest statement to say, “we are taking a very strict approach to ensuring that this income supports expenditure directly related to the campaign for independence”. But this is in direct contradiction to a statement issued by SNP Corporate Compliance Officer Ian McCann, who is on record saying, “donations are in a ring-fenced fund to fight the next referendum whenever we are in a position to call that”.
We seem to have a problem here. According to McCann – and indeed Beattie himself – the indyref2 fund was ‘earmarked’ for the purpose of being spent in a future referendum “whenever” they “are in a position to call” one. How then does this square with Colin Beattie’s latest statement referring to the earmarked funds being spent on “independence related campaigning” in advance of a referendum which might never even happen?
People donated money to a fund and were told it was for a future independence referendum campaign. How else am I to interpret the words of the SNP Compliance Officer? But now they are being told some (if not all) of the donated money has been spent on undefined pre-referendum spending.
It raises the obvious question: precisely what pre-referendum activities has the ‘ring-fenced’ money been spent on? And how much did each individual expenditure cost?
I assume that Colin Beattie might argue that this does not represent a fraud (soliciting money for one purpose – indyref2 – but using it for another – party business), since he might argue the SNP are constitutionally all about separation (thus party business is indyref2 spending). But this all represents a seriously grey area.
The SNP’s credibility for being sincere or honest is not helped by Colin Beattie’s latest statement where he writes “the SNP is not a registered charity and does not disclose “restricted” and “unrestricted” funds”. Not least since this is a lie.
The truth is, the SNP did previously disclose such distinctions in their accounts up until 2012. And Colin Beattie himself was SNP national treasurer at the time. In the 2012 SNP accounts we see itemised listings of “restricted” funds, which included a referendum fund. So why did Colin Beattie first abandon this transparency in SNP accounting, and now imply that to expect it is somehow unreasonable?
How are we to square Beattie’s 2020 insistence that the funds “remain earmarked for the referendum” with his latest line that the “remainder” of the fund is to be spent “this year” for “referendum/independence preparations”? I do not see any independence referendum set to happen, nor do I detect any likelihood of one this side of the 2024 General Election.
The words we use are supposed to enable truth to be revealed, understanding to be achieved. It allows us to make order out of chaos. But what happens when language is deployed to conceal rather than reveal truth? How can money be “frozen” and only used “to fight the next referendum” whilst simultaneously being spent years in advance of a referendum which might never even happen?
In October 2020 Colin Beattie told us the ‘ring-fenced’/’frozen’ fund was ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice: “The Referendum Appeal Fund (RAF) has a current balance of £593,501 and we can fully deploy those funds instantaneously”. But now he writes, “there may be a need for a further fund-raising exercise early in 2022 as we approach critical political watersheds”. So that money which was ready to be deployed “at moment’s notice” is apparently all gone (or soon to be).
Thus, we return to the question of what on earth the SNP could have blown nearly £600,000 on since October last year. One thing which cannot possibly account for all that money is the ‘Independence Taskforce’ set up in January 2021. Not least since Marco Biagi (who has since resigned from leading it, describing it as the ‘worst job ever’) represented the only new work force expense. It is my understanding that all other people assigned to that ‘taskforce’ all already worked for the SNP; therefore, do not represent fresh labour costs.
I for one would love to know from Colin Beattie precisely what pre-referendum activities account for £593,501 being spent since October last year. Perhaps that is one itemised listing of expenditure he will be happy to disclose? And while he is at it, perhaps Beattie can tell us why the previous SNP national treasurer and three members of the SNP’s Finance and Audit Committee all resigned citing a lack of transparency or access to SNP accounts Beattie himself has previously been responsible for over the years?