Nicola Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell arrested in SNP funding probe

Nicola Sturgeon's husband Peter Murrell
Nicola Sturgeon's husband Peter Murrell arrested in SNP finance probe

Peter Murrell arrested in SNP finance probe

Police Scotland have arrested the former chief executive of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Peter Murrell, as part of an ongoing investigation into the party’s funding.

Murrell, the husband of former first minister Nicola Sturgeon, was taken into custody on Wednesday morning and is currently being questioned by detectives.

Mr Murrell resigned as the party’s chief executive last month, a post he had held since 1999.

He has been married to Ms Sturgeon since 2010.

Officers were also at the SNP’s Gordon Lamb House headquarters in Edinburgh following the arrest, which comes just a week after Ms Sturgeon was replaced by Humza Yousaf.

Ms Sturgeon stood down as first minister last month and was last week succeeded by Humza Yousaf.

The new first minister said it was “a difficult day” for the SNP.

Mr Yousaf said: “I obviously can’t comment on a live police investigation.

“But what I will say is that the SNP has fully cooperated with the investigation and it will continue to do so.”

He added that the party had agreed to carry out a review on governance and transparency.

The arrest comes after Police Scotland launched an investigation into the SNP’s finances in 2020. The investigation is looking into allegations that the party may have misused donations intended for independence campaigning. An amount of more than £600,000 in donations to the SNP for independence campaigning was diverted elsewhere in 2021.

Ms Sturgeon faced questions in the weeks before she stepped down over a £107,000 loan from her husband to the SNP, of which he was chief executive during her time in office.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: ‘We need Humza Yousaf and Nicola Sturgeon to urgently state what they knew and when.’

In July 2021 Police Scotland launched a formal investigation into the SNP’s finances after receiving complaints about how donations were used.

Questions had been raised about funds given to the party for use in a fresh independence referendum campaign.

Seven people made complaints and a probe was set up following talks with prosecutors.

Ms Sturgeon, then first minister and SNP leader, had insisted that she was “not concerned” about the party’s finances.

She said “every penny” of cash raised in online crowdfunding campaigns would be spent on the independence drive.

Murrell has always denied any wrongdoing.

In a statement, Police Scotland said: “A 58-year-old man has been arrested in connection with an ongoing investigation into the Scottish National Party’s funding and finances. The man is in custody and is being questioned by detectives.”

The SNP said in a statement: “We are aware that Police Scotland have arrested Peter Murrell. We are cooperating fully with the investigation and will provide a further update in due course.”

The arrest is a major blow to the SNP, which is currently in power in Scotland. It is also likely to reignite the debate about the independence of Scotland, with some arguing that the arrest shows that the SNP is not fit to govern.

The investigation is ongoing and it is not yet clear what charges Murrell may face. However, the arrest is a significant development in the long-running saga of the SNP’s funding.

It remains to be seen what the long-term impact of the arrest will be on the SNP. However, it is clear that the party is now facing a major challenge to its reputation and its credibility.

Nicola Sturgeon gave multiple reasons for her resignation but the police investigation into her party’s finances was not one of them.

When questioned about it on the day she stepped down, she declined to comment but later emphasised that it had not influenced her decision. However, I speculate that the timing of her resignation may have been influenced by her husband’s recent arrest, which would have been more complicated for her to manage if she were still in office as the SNP leader and first minister.

The police investigation into the SNP’s finances has been ongoing for about 18 months and began when concerns were raised about how over £600,000 raised for independence campaigning had been spent, despite no independence referendum taking place. The SNP has stated that it always intended to spend an equivalent amount in this way. Recently, the investigation entered a critical phase when officers sought advice from the Crown Office on how to proceed. It is now much clearer what guidance they received from those responsible for overseeing criminal investigations in Scotland.

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