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Forbes commits to independent audit of SNP finances and membership to restore trust

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Kate Forbes has today committed to independent auditing of the SNP membership numbers and the party's finances as she promised to "restore trust" in its operations.

The SNP leadership hopeful who is vying with Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as party leader and First Minister said her action would "give confidence and assurance to members". 

Her open letter to members - many who have not yet voted in the contest - follows a tumultuous week for the party with the resignation of its head of communications in Holyrood over inaccurate figures given to journalists about the number of people in the party and doubt cast on the integrity of the ballot. The move heaped pressure on the party's chief executive Peter Murrell to stand down.

The party is also under investigation by the police over a potential fraud involving £600,000 raised by it for an independence campaign.

READ MORE: Ash Regan team discuss court action to pause SNP leadership contest

Yesterday saw Ms Sturgeon's closest aide Liz Lloyd announce that she would be leaving government after Ms Regan's team raised concerns with the head of the civil service in Scotland over the advisor's role in helping Mr Yousaf's campaign. The Scottish Government said no rules were broken, while Ms Lloyd said it had always been her intention to leave her role when Ms Sturgeon departs from office.

The Herald revealed today discussions are taking place in the Regan camp over whether to apply for a court interdict to pause the contest.

Writing to SNP members today Ms Forbes said: "Many of you, like me, will be hurt and bemused by the extraordinary turmoil in our party over the last days.

"If anyone was in any doubt that this needs to be a change election for the SNP, recent events and resignations confirm the core message of my campaign: continuity won't cut it.

"Indeed, since the very beginning, I have built my campaign on the importance of honesty, integrity and reform. We need change in party and government, in culture and in policies. A prerequisite for effective change is trust.


"Restoring trust and transparency in the way that the SNP carries out its internal business and restoring the confidence of people in Scotland are two sides of the same coin. 

"We need to run both our party and our Government based on core principles - honesty, competence, transparency, hard work, humility and accountability. 

"Let me be clear about why I'm standing in this election, and why I haven't given up, when it would have been easier to do so. 

"I love the SNP, and I am passionate about Scotland's future as an independent, fair and wealthy nation. A few years ago, scandal rocked the SNP and I was asked to step up and deliver the budget with only a few hours' notice. 

"I did it, for my party and for the people of this country. That is the mark of who I am. I will not shy away from difficult times. Instead I find the solution and give it my all.

READ MORE: SNP NEC 'has the numbers' for vote of no confidence in Peter Murrell

"I have a great deal of respect for the two other candidates, but I am the only candidate who can truly deliver change as First Minister."

She promised if she was elected SNP leader she would commit to:

-        Independent auditing of the party's membership numbers and finances to give confidence and assurance to members. 

-        A more democratic party, which empowers its members to truly set the direction of travel and inform policies.

-        Reform of the party, with a refreshed team to meet the challenges of opposition parties.

-        Smaller, focused Government to meet the needs of our people and accelerate reform.

-        A campaign movement for independence that is wider than the SNP to advance independence. 

READ MORE: FM aide to quit after Regan raises concerns with civil service chief


She added: "The test of this leadership election is whether we can - collectively - face up to challenges with candour and honesty and recognise the imperatives for change. 

"A lot of SNP members haven't voted yet. Many might be thinking it is easier to sit out this election, scunnered by the stories. But I urge you to take part and join the cause for change.

"Together, we can rebuild a party run for its members and a Government run for the people we serve. As we enter this last week, vote for change. The last few days make it crystal clear that more of the same won't cut."

Voting is due to continue in the contest until March 27 with the winner expected to be announced that day.

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