Detectives investigating the finances of the SNP are said to be searching for sim cards belonging to “burner” mobile phones – a type of phone that is often used to stay anonymous.
Police Scotland officers want to examine information obtained from sim cards used in this kind of untraceable phone, according to Scottish newspaper the Sunday Mail.
The newspaper said the purchase of luxury pens, designer kitchenware and even a fridge freezer by SNP officials is also being scrutinised as part of the current investigation, which has seen both Nicola Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell and the party’s former treasurer Colin Beattie arrested and interviewed by police under caution before being released without charge.
The police inquiry, known as Operation Branchform, was launched as officers sought to investigate how more than £660,000 in donations, earmarked for an independence referendum, had been used.
A source with knowledge of the investigation told the Sunday Mail: “They want to know the numbers connected with these [sim] cards, which could also contain numbers called and text messages.
“It’s not uncommon for people to have unregistered mobile sim cards, which can be bought from any shop. There’s nothing wrong with having a so-called burner phone, but police want a record of these phones in the SNP.”
Another source said there was an “extensive list” of items the police are interested in – including pens, pots and pans, jewellery and a fridge freezer.
Despite questions remaining about the party’s finances, its deputy leader, Keir Brown, on Sunday described the SNP as the “most transparent party”. “We are the most transparent, most successful party … in Scotland,” the senior SNP figure told BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show.
“We have to increase that transparency,” he added. “It is my ambition – and I know that it’s Humza [Yousaf]’s – to make sure that we are the most transparent party in Scotland, and that we set the standard for transparency and shame other parties.”
Scottish Tory chair Craig Hoy, who appeared on the programme after Mr Brown, called the remarks “bizarre” and claimed that the SNP was “addicted to secrecy”.
In an earlier interview with Sky News, Mr Brown admitted that he had not been notified until recently that the party’s auditors had resigned.
SNP leader Humza Yousaf only learned of the resignation of the auditors after he replaced Ms Sturgeon in the top job – despite their having stepped aside in around October.
Earlier this week, a senior SNP figure told The Independent it was likely Ms Sturgeon would also be interviewed under caution, given that she is one of the three names believed to be on party accounts.
Some of the party’s MPs and MSPs have also said it is “inevitable” that Ms Sturgeon will be questioned by police under caution in the weeks ahead.
Kenny MacAskill, a former SNP MSP and now the deputy leader of the Alba Party, blamed the “authoritarian” culture Ms Sturgeon presided over for the “shambles” within the party. “This was all about ensuring that she was a dominant personality – she was surrounded by sycophants,” he told Times Radio on Sunday.
An SNP spokesperson said: “We have no comment on a live police investigation.” A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “As the investigation is ongoing we are unable to comment further.”