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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Xander Elliards

Police Scotland boss warns of 'ill-informed speculation' over SNP finances probe

“ILL-INFORMED speculation” will only risk damaging the ongoing probe into SNP finances, the chief constable of Police Scotland has warned.

Sir Iain Livingstone further said that police would “fiercely resist” any attempt to exert political pressure over “Operation Branchform” – the name given to the investigation into the SNP.

The police chief told a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) on Thursday: “In carrying out our duties, the operational independence of the chief constable is a key democratic principle.

“Of course, the core element of that essential operational independence is the high level of accountability I have just described. It follows from that that police investigations must be allowed to progress without any form of political interference.

“I have previously asserted and will reassert today that I fiercely resist any attempt to bring political pressure to my decision making or upon any police operation. Police operations are and will be based on public safety, the rule of law, not politics or any constitutional position.”

Livingstone’s comments come after reports in the media attempted to suggest that the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) had delayed the approval of a search warrant for SNP HQ and Nicola Sturgeon’s home for two weeks.

COPFS fiercely denied any political considerations had had an impact on the process.

Speaking on Thursday, Livingstone gave the “experienced and independent prosecutors in the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service” his backing.

He went on: “A diligent, thorough and proportional enquiry is being conducted with integrity and two individuals have been arrested and subsequently released without charge pending further investigations, which continue.”

Those two individuals were Peter Murrell, the former chief executive of the SNP, and Colin Beattie, an MSP and the party’s former treasurer.

The police chief added: "I fully understand and recognise the high level of public interest in this particular case, but due process must and will be followed at all times, within whatever timescales are necessary – timescales set by investigative considerations not political considerations.

“I would request, I would urge all civic leaders, if offering any comment or thoughts on what is a live investigation, to act with prudence and responsibility, inaccurate assertions and ill-informed speculation will only serve to damage justice, infringe the rights of individuals and undermine the rule of law.”

Also speaking at the same meeting, Livingstone acknowledged that racism, misogyny, and sexism are a “reality” for Police Scotland.

He will step down as the head of the UK’s second largest police force this summer.

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