The Scottish National Party chief in charge of overseeing the election to replace Nicola Sturgeon is under fire, after the Daily Express uncovered tweets from her questioning UK intelligence that Russia was behind the 2018 Salisbury poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
Three weeks after Theresa May told the House of Commons it was “highly likely” that Putin was behind the shocking attacks, Lorna Finn – the SNP National Secretary – tweeted that the “Skripals story has more holes in” it than a sieve.
“Now don’t shoot me down for this but, before you go full whack all in accusing another country of a terrorist attack, getting hawners from other countries to agree should you not be really really sure. This #Novichok #Skripals story has more holes in that sieve. #ConfuseMe”
Responding to the revelation, the Scottish Conservative Party Chair Craig Hoy told the Daily Express: “No wonder the SNP’s own leadership candidates are questioning the integrity of the election if the person running it appears to buy Vladimir Putin‘s line so easily”.
A Scottish Labour spokesperson said: “These are deeply worrying statements to see from a senior figure in Scotland’s governing party.”
“As war rages in Europe, we must have no place for Putin apology at any level of Scottish politics.”
The news comes amid squabbles and chaos in the SNP leadership race, currently being run by Lorna Finn.
Two weeks ago UK spy chiefs at GCHQ issued a warning that the leadership election is at risk of being cyber-hacked.
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At the start of March, the Mail on Sunday revealed intelligence chiefs at GCHQ had contacted the SNP ahead of the ballot “to highlight key ‘security considerations’”, given the vote will be conducted almost entirely online.
Lorna Finn has also spent the last week at the centre of the storm around publishing the SNP’s membership numbers, after demands for transparency from the three candidates vying to replace Nicole Sturgeon.
An open letter, signed by both Ash Regan and Kate Forbes, was to SNP Chief Executive Peter Murrell on Wednesday, demanding to be told the membership figure ahead of members beginning to vote.
The letter publicly criticised Lorna Finn, with Mrs Regan saying both she and Mrs Forbes had “previously reached out to the National Secretary, Lorna Finn, with a request for this information”.
“However we have yet to receive a response, which has prompted us to address this matter through a formal open letter.”
Mrs Finn responded to the allegations about election transparency in a letter on Thursday afternoon, saying that other than not knowing the SNP membership figure she wasn’t clear to her “what your specific concerns are” regarding “‘integrity’ of the ballot”.
She wrote, “as Returning Officer, I can assure you that I am satisfied as to the integrity of the ballot”.
The membership figures were eventually published yesterday, showing a dramatic 30,000 fall since the party last reported them around 14 months ago.
This week SNP MP Kirsten Oswald tweeted her thanks to Lorna Finn for doing a “sterling job as National Secretary to make the contest happen so efficiently”.