SNP motorhome: Key questions on £100k Fife campervan sent up in BBC Hogmanay sketch show

Images of a motorhome being seized by police in Dunfermline in 2023 led to further questions about the extent of investigations into SNP finances.

The development was a surprise twist in the crisis facing the party just after Nicola Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell was questioned by police.

Ms Sturgeon has since been arrested and released by police without charge.

And the Fife motorhome saga was mocked in BBC Scotland’s Hogmanay sketch show Queen of the New Year, with Elizabeth Caproni impersonating the former first minister.

Here’s everything we know so far about the campervan controversy.

Elizabeth Caproni (left) as Nicola Sturgeon in Queen of the New Year. Image: BBC Scotland

1 – When was the SNP motorhome seized?

On April 5, former SNP chief executive Mr Murrell – married to Nicola Sturgeon – was arrested by police in connection with their investigation into party spending.

It later emerged officers had also seized a motorhome, worth more than £100,000, from the driveway of his mother’s Dunfermline home on the same day.

Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell outside a polling station.
Former SNP chief Peter Murrell was previously arrested. Image: PA.

Questions immediately emerged over who the campervan belonged to, when it had first been purchased and why it was key to the police probe.

2 – Why was the Dunfermline-based campervan bought by SNP?

It was later confirmed by new First Minister Humza Yousaf that the motorhome linked to the SNP finance scandal was owned by the party.

Party sources told The Daily Record the campervan was purchased to function as a campaign battle bus ahead of the 2021 Holyrood election due to Covid restrictions.

But it’s claimed this plan was later ditched in the run-up to the nationwide vote as pandemic curbs were gradually eased by Ms Sturgeon’s government.

Instead, according to party insiders, the motorhome sat outside Margaret Murrell’s home for more than two years before it was seized by police.

Opposition MSPs cast doubts over SNP claims the motorhome had originally been acquired by the party as a consequence of Covid.

Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy branded the explanation “less than convincing”.

On May 21, the Sunday Mail reported the motorhome was never insured and on June 18 the newspaper claimed it was a cash purchase.

3 – Was Humza Yousaf aware SNP owned campervan?

Mr Murrell’s arrest and the campervan saga has been a major blow for SNP leader Mr Yousaf.

He admitted he only discovered his party had purchased the campervan after he succeeded Ms Sturgeon in the top job.

Humza Yousaf, who was initially unaware his party, the SNP, owned a campervan. Image: PA.
Humza Yousaf was unaware his party owned a motorhome. Image: PA.

Asked by Sky News when he found out, Mr Yousaf said: “Shortly after I became leader of the party.”

Similarly, the new first minister revealed he had also been in the dark over the SNP’s auditors quitting, despite them stepping back last autumn.

4 – Did ex-SNP treasurer Colin Beattie know about the campervan?

Colin Beattie was the second senior SNP figure to be taken into police custody when he was arrested on April 18 (like Peter Murrell, Mr Beattie was released without charge pending further investigation).

Shortly afterwards Mr Beattie confirmed his resignation as the party’s treasurer, a post he held from 2004 until 2020, and then took up again the following year.

On his return to Holyrood this week, he said he DIDN’T know about the party-owned campervan despite being responsible for the SNP’s finances.

Former SNP treasurer Colin Beattie. Image: Kenny Smith.
Former SNP treasurer Colin Beattie. Image: Kenny Smith.

But six hours later there was a clarification issued through the SNP – with Mr Beattie saying he found out about the purchase later in 2021 and had only been unaware when it was first bought.

In a statement, he said: “I was asked if I knew about the motorhome purchase, to which I answered no.

“Given some of the coverage of this answer, I believe it is important to clarify that I was unaware of the transaction at the time of purchase.

“I became aware of the transaction via the 2021 annual accounts.”

Another former party treasurer, Dunfermline MP Douglas Chapman, also revealed he was unaware about the SNP-owned campervan parked in his own constituency.

Mr Chapman, who quit his role in 2021 over a lack of information needed to do the job, told The Times he had been kept in the dark over the purchase.

In August 2023, it emerged the SNP was more than £800,000 in deficit – and the campervan remains on the party’s books.

5 – What has Nicola Sturgeon said?

Since the SNP crisis escalated following the arrest of her husband, all eyes have been on ex-First Minister Ms Sturgeon.

Speaking in Holyrood on April 25, the former leader claimed she could not have “anticipated in my worst nightmares” her party’s troubles.

Former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Image: PA.
Former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Image: PA.

Ms Sturgeon continued to deny the party’s money woes were why she made the shock decision to quit the top job in February.

She told journalists: “Clearly the events of the last few weeks have been difficult and – I use this word advisedly and deliberately – in some respects very traumatic.”

At the Scottish Tory party conference on Friday April 28, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak mocked Ms Sturgeon over the campervan controversy.

He joked: “Nicola Sturgeon quit Bute House to take driving lessons…someone has to drive that motorhome after all.”

Ms Sturgeon was arrested then released without charge by police on June 11.

6 – What type of motorhome did SNP buy?

The luxury campervan bought by the SNP was an iSmove model made by German motorhome manufacturers Niesmann+Bischoff.

The compact, modern RV has an open-plan living space and kitchen, a windowless entry door and “invisible” storage space as well.

It’s billed as the perfect type of vehicle for well-off families going on long road trips around popular tourist spots such as the North Coast 500.

The iSmove motorhome even has its own slogan on the Niesmann+Bischoff website – “No room for rules”.

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