Dhe husband of former Scottish Prime Minister (First Minister) and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) Nicola Sturgeon has been arrested on suspicion of irregularities in the handling of party finances. Peter Murrell, who had been the party’s chief executive for more than two decades, resigned shortly after Sturgeon’s surprise resignation in February after it became apparent that party numbers had fallen far short of what the party leadership had suggested.
The British broadcaster BBC reported on Wednesday that Murrell was interrogated by the police after his arrest and that there had also been “a large number” of searches. Sturgeon’s successor as SNP leader and prime minister said it was “a difficult day” for his party; however, the SNP is working to clarify the facts without any reservations. The party leadership itself had agreed to initiate a review of transparency and leadership culture.
Whereabouts of more than £600,000 unclear
According to journalists, police searches included at least the home of Sturgeon and Murrell in Glasgow and the SNP party headquarters in Edinburgh. Police officers were noticed bringing crates and equipment into the buildings.
The investigations could be related to complaints made by several parties against the SNP to the police in the summer of 2021 for the use of party funds. The question of the whereabouts of donations that had been collected by the party in preparation for a new referendum on Scottish independence played a role. The sum is said to have totaled more than 600,000 pounds (around 735,000 euros). A new referendum was refused by the British government in London and ruled inadmissible by the British Supreme Court. Responding to earlier questions, Sturgeon said “every penny” of funds raised will go towards the independence campaign.
There are indications that the party was underfunded for its normal political activities: last year it was revealed that party leader Murrell loaned his own party more than £100,000 a year earlier to help with short-term financial difficulties to bridge. The party’s treasurer resigned that year on the grounds that he had not received the “financial information” needed to fill the position.