HUMZA Yousaf has addressed the police investigation into SNP finances, saying it “clearly” affected the public perception of the party.

The First Minister said the inquiry has been “one of the most difficult times” for the SNP and that he must work hard to rebuild trust.

Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon, her husband and former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, and then party treasurer Colin Beattie were arrested last year as part of the police investigation.

All were released without charge pending further investigation.

The arrests came as part of Police Scotland’s Operation Branchform, which is looking into what happened to around £600,000 raised by the party for independence campaigning.

Yousaf told the Political Thinking with Nick Robinson Radio 4 podcast: “The police investigation has been one of the most difficult times for the party.

“There’s no ifs or buts or maybes about it. There has clearly been an impact in terms of how we were perceived by the public and issues of trust, and I’ve got to work hard, as I hope I have been doing over the last ten months.

“I’ve got to work hard to make sure that people know, whatever the outcome of that police investigation is, that the SNP is a party that they can trust.

“It’s been difficult, no doubt, for those involved. But difficult for us as a party and it’s certainly been a challenge for me in my first ten months.”

Yousaf also spoke of the weeks that his parents in-law were trapped in Gaza after the conflict broke out in October last year.

They became trapped in the territory at the outbreak of hostilities following a trip to visit their relatives there.

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Elizabeth and Maged El-Nakla, from Dundee, were eventually able to leave Gaza through the Rafah crossing.

However, his brother-in-law remains trapped in the region while his partner, Nadia El-Nakla, has pleaded with the Home Office to let him come to the UK.

Yousaf told the podcast: “The four weeks that my mother-in-law and father-in-law were in Gaza are probably the lowest points of my life and of Nadia’s life, they were really difficult four weeks, precisely because day by day and night by night, we did not know if they were going to live or not.”

The SNP leader also said he has never really been comfortable with the fact that the his party has the word “national” in its name because it can be misinterpreted.

He said the party has worked hard to make it clear that it is a “civic national party” that believes it does not matter really where you come from.