The firm that audits the SNP resigned six months ago and Humza Yousaf did not know until he became the party’s leader last month, it has emerged.

The accountancy firm Johnston Carmichael stopped handling the party’s account last October, while a police investigation into party finances was underway, but the news only became public on Friday.

In what is being viewed as a surprising admission, Humza Yousaf said yesterday that he had not been informed about the firm’s departure until after he won the leadership election that paved the way for him to become first minister on March 27.

Situation 'is problematic'

“They resigned last year,” he told STV News at an event in Leith. “I think it was in and about October last year.

“But the fact that we don’t have auditors in place is one of the major priorities.

“You can imagine when I found that out, being the party leader, the party is quickly looking to secure another auditor.”

He added: “It’s certainly problematic, I won’t deny that at all.”

Asked if his party would be able to meet the July 7 deadline for submitting its 2022 annual accounts to the Electoral Commission, the First Minister said: “We’re working very hard to do that. It’s one of the significant priorities.

“When I learned about the fact that we don’t have an auditor in place of course I instructed the party to get on with finding another auditor.

“So we are working very hard to do that.”

Claims departure 'kept secret'

The Times claims today that Johnston Carmichael's withdrawal, which came after a review of its client base, was also hidden from the national executive committee (NEC), the ruling body that represents the SNP’s 70,000 members.

When the auditors quit, the party was under the direction of Peter Murrell, who was then chief executive and is married to the former first minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Murrell stepped down after nearly 25 years in the post last month amid claims that he had issued misleading information about the size of the party’s membership.

Last week he was arrested and questioned by police as part of an investigation into the party’s finances, before being released.

The investigation continues.

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