POLICE Scotland's investigation into the SNP's finances has reportedly cost more than £1 million.

Operation Branchform was sparked by a formal complaint to police in March 2021 over how donations made to the SNP for a second independence referendum campaign were spent.

The probe was not formally launched until a few months later, in June, and has seen multiple high-profile party figures, including former first minister Nicola Sturgeon, arrested and released without charge. 

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Former treasurer Colin Beattie and former chief executive Peter Murrell were also arrested, questioned, and released without charge, while Sturgeon has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. 

The investigation's raid on the home of Sturgeon and her husband Murrell, former SNP chief, prompted weeks of headlines earlier this year.

However, it's understood that Police Scotland have still not submitted a report to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) over their investigation.

The lack of movement on Operation Branchform in recent months led to a group of lawyers urging the Crown Office to explain what was taking so long.

The National: Police at the house dshared by Peter Murrell and Nicola Sturgeon

And now, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the Scottish Sun on Sunday has revealed that the total cost up to the end of October for the probe is £1,084,620.

The costs are understood to include salary and overtime pay for officers, vehicle hire, and the cost of the raid on the Murrell and Sturgeon home in April. 

Craig Hoy, the Scottish Tory party chairman, said: “This hit on Police Scotland’s budget — which is already overstretched — could have been avoided if senior SNP figures were honest about their financial affairs from the outset.”

An SNP spokesperson responded to the figure, stating: "Police Scotland is responsible for its expenditure and answers to the Scottish public."

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However, Police Scotland refused to comment on the cost of the inquiry so far. 

“As the investigation is ongoing we are unable to comment further," a spokesperson said. 

The probe centers around a complaint made regarding £600,000 in donations raised in 2017 for a second independence referendum.

Campaigner Sean Clerkin, who lodged the complaint with police, told the Daily Record in November that he believed officers were "dragging their heels". 

The National:

It came as two senior lawyers, Kevin Drummond KC and Douglas Cusine, argued the public are entitled to know why the investigation is taking so long.

The former sheriffs said that the "continuing delay" in bringing the case to a conclusion could stimulate "perceptions of a cover up".

At the time, the Crown Office insisted they had not received a report from police, and therefore the investigation was still ongoing. 

Last July, outgoing Police Scotland chief constable Iain Livingstone (below) suggested that the investigation had “moved beyond” the initial complaint and officers were probing potential embezzlement or misuse of funds.

He defended the use of a blue forensics tent outside of Murrell and Sturgeon’s home, after suggestions it was “over the top”.