Peter MurrellPolice Scotland
Peter Murrell, the husband of former first minister Nicola Sturgeon, was arrested on Wednesday morning in connection with an investigation into Scottish National Party (SNP) finances. Police Scotland said officers were carrying out searches at a number of addresses as part of the inquiry. Mr Murrell had been the SNP’s chief executive since 1999 and resigned last month.
The arrest took place shortly after Ms Sturgeon stepped down as first minister and was succeeded by Humza Yousaf. The new first minister said it was “a difficult day” for the SNP and that the party had agreed to carry out a review on governance and transparency. He added that the SNP had fully cooperated with the investigation and would continue to do so.
Police activity was seen at Mr Murrell and Ms Sturgeon’s home in Glasgow and at SNP headquarters in Edinburgh. At least six marked police vehicles were parked outside the building and officers carrying green crates and other equipment were seen going inside.
The investigation into the SNP’s finances was launched in July 2021 after seven people made complaints about how donations were used. Questions had been raised about funds given to the party for use in a fresh independence referendum campaign. Ms Sturgeon had insisted that she was “not concerned” about the party’s finances and that “every penny” of cash raised in online crowdfunding campaigns would be spent on the independence drive.
When asked about the investigation on the day she stood down, Ms Sturgeon declined to comment but later insisted it had not been a factor. According to a statement, the SNP raised a total of £666,953 through referendum-related appeals between 2017 and 2020. The party pledged to spend these funds on the independence campaign.
Questions were raised after its accounts showed it had just under £97,000 in the bank at the end of 2019, and total net assets of about £272,000. Last year it emerged Mr Murrell gave a loan of more than £100,000 to the SNP to help it out with a “cash flow” issue after the last election.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said it was “an extremely serious situation” and that the police investigation must be allowed to proceed without interference. Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Donald Cameron said senior SNP politicians must cooperate fully with the investigation and commit to openness and transparency. Alba leader Alex Salmond, who preceded Ms Sturgeon as first minister and SNP leader, said he was “very sad” about what had happened to the party.
Scottish police normally have 12 hours to question a suspect after their arrest. At some point the detectives will decide whether or not to charge Peter Murrell. The police will then send a report to Scotland’s prosecution service, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), which will decide what happens next. The COPFS Prosecution Code states that decisions on individual cases are immune from “political influence or other pressure”. Prosecutors are required to carry out their duties “without fear, favour or prejudice”.