Save content
Have you found this content useful? Use the button above to save it to your profile.
Recently selected SNP first minister Humza Yousaf drives audit appointment
Humza Yousaf_Scottish government

AMS Group appointed SNP auditor


Manchester-based AMS Accountants Group has stepped into the political firing line by accepting the appointment as auditor for the Scottish National Party (SNP).

4th May 2023
Save content
Have you found this content useful? Use the button above to save it to your profile.

One of Humza Yousaf’s first duties after being elected SNP leader at the end of March was to find a new auditor after he discovered the long-term incumbent Johnston Carmichael had resigned the appointment several months before. 

The portents were not good, with the party’s former CEO Peter Murrell under investigation by the police. The police staged a dramatic raid on the Glasgow house he shares with former party leader Nicola Sturgeon and towed away a motorhome from his mother’s home in Fife. Murrell was later released without charge.

Two weeks later, party treasurer Colin Beattie was also arrested. He too was released without charge, but resigned his position immediately afterwards.

Maelstrom of intrigue

In taking on the audit appointment, which was announced by Yousaf (above) on Wednesday morning, AMS is entering a maelstrom of political intrigue, controversy and reputational risk. The accountant will have to undertake a very rapid review of the party’s Westminster group accounts to meet a 31 May parliamentary reporting deadline. If the financial statements are not agreed and filed in time, the SNP risks losing £1.2m in parliamentary funding.

For its next act, the auditor will have to ensure the 2021/22 accounts are audited and filed with the Electoral Commission by 7 July. Failure to do so could leave the client facing a civil sanction of up to £5,000.

Slush fund

One anomaly the new auditor will need to resolve before then is the whereabouts and documentation for around half a million pounds raised by SNP activists to support the campaign for a second independence referendum. This apparent slush fund was the trigger for Police Scotland’s investigation into potential fraud. 

In the latest accounts filed, the party posted a £751,572 deficit on income of £4.5m for the year to 31 December 2021. But public records also show that Murrell had loaned the party £107,000 to cover a cashflow gap after the last election. Around half of that amount has been repaid, according to Electoral Commission records.

“We take our statutory obligations extremely seriously, so it is welcome news that AMS Accountants Group will complete the accounts for both the party and the SNP Westminster group,” said Yousaf.

“There is hard work ahead, but it is really encouraging to have them on board as we work towards challenging deadlines.

Replies (6)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

By Hugo Fair
04th May 2023 19:01

And the winner of this week's (indeed year's) Poisoned Chalice is ...

Thanks (6)
Pile of Stones
By Beach Accountancy
04th May 2023 19:40

Under independence presumably a Scottish firm of accountants would have to be the auditors. Wonder why none of them are stepping up now?

Thanks (4)
Replying to Beach Accountancy:
paddle steamer
08th May 2023 17:54

Well, JC (the largest) stood down and whilst there are some of okay size there are not that many larger firms left that are solely Scottish (JC also has presence down south in Newcastle and London). Given publicity around the SNP I doubt the appointment really assists winning other clients in Scotland, hence the other firms may have, I suspect ,body swerved and the SNP has maybe needed to look south.

Thanks (2)
John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
09th May 2023 17:50

Update: Tax policy blogger Dan Niedle has looked into the background of AMS Group and established that it is related to tax advisory boutique Signature that specialises in “education and school fees planning”.

In his assessment, the tax avoidance scheme designed to lessen the liability for parents paying school fees is unlikely to succeed. The Guardian followed up the story over the weekend here:

Our own tax editor, Rebecca Cave, has been in touch with Niedle to explore the issues in more detail. Stay tuned!

Thanks (0)
Replying to John Stokdyk:
By Hugo Fair
09th May 2023 18:59

Interesting ... but I'd be careful when following Dan's innuendos.

All that the Guardian actually quotes him as saying is:
* it *struck* him as a “tax avoidance scheme”; and
* “I expect HMRC will challenge it, and for their challenge to succeed.”
... that's a lot of opinion without providing any substantive reasoning.

I am not a tax specialist but I know of countless people who have been doing, for over 10 years, what sounds remarkably similar to the AMS 'scheme' ... without any understanding that they are using a 'scheme' and indeed without any fallout from HMRC.

Ignoring the dimensions of morality (whether with regard to private education or of tax planning), there needs to be a good deal more than one person's claim of a whiff of impropriety before you (or anyone else) has a News story.

Thanks (2)
10th May 2023 15:57

AMS Accountants Group Limited has not disclosed any persons with significant control at Companies House. The last filed disclosure of shareholders at Companies there were only two sharedolders in the names of David Clegg and Ebrahim Sidat who both have 5050 ordinary shares each. The two directors are David Luke Clegg and Ebrahim Sidat and the accounts for 31/12/2021 declare that the ultimate controlling parties are the directors due to their equal ownership of the entire issued share capital of the company. They are therefore in breach of the PSC regime and this does not reflect well on them as the auditors of the SNP.

Thanks (2)