Another blow for the Scottish independence party. Peter Murrell, 58, the husband of ex-Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon and executive director of the SNP since 1999, was arrested by police on Wednesday April 5 as part of an investigation into the finances of the movement, still largely in the majority in Scotland. Mr Murrell was released in the evening without being charged, but the images of the pavilion he shares with Mrme Sturgeon in the south of Glasgow transformed into a crime scene with police cordons and a tent erected in front, have damaged the image of the SNP a little more. The latter has already suffered in the polls from the surprise resignation on February 15 of Nicola Sturgeon, a formidable communicator, and unprecedented divisions have appeared within it.
Scottish police have been investigating since 2021 a kitty of £600,000 (€686,000) from donations to the SNP, believed to be used to fund a second independence referendum – the first, in 2014, saw the retention within of the United Kingdom win, with 55.3% of the vote. Police, who also raided the SNP’s Edinburgh headquarters on Wednesday, suspect the money was used for something else – possibly the day-to-day running of the party. There is also the matter of the loan of around £100,000 which Mr Murrell gave to the SNP, which is said to have had cash flow problems.
For some time now, the finances of the independence party have raised questions, as has its management, which is considered opaque and far too centralized. Nicola Sturgeon met Mr Murrell in the late 1990s, when both were rising stars in the SNP, close to the movement’s leader at the time, Alex Salmond. They got married in 2003 and married in 2010, when Peter Russell was already the party’s chief executive and Nicola Sturgeon was minister of Scottish regional government. At the end of 2014, the politician succeeded Alex Salmond at the head of the SNP and the government, just after the failed referendum on independence, but her husband kept the keys to the party.
Until now, few internal voices had dared to criticize this curious mode of operation. With the exception of Joanna Cherry, an SNP MP in the House of Commons, who was banned from the party in 2021 after challenging Ms.me Sturgeon (notably his gender reassignment law). “It is not healthy for a husband and wife to combine the head of the party and the government. And on the financial side [du SNP]it does not smell good », dropped the chosen one on the BBC at the time of the resignation of Mme Sturgeon. Tongues began to loosen during the campaign for the replacement of the leader, Mr. Murrell being notably pushed to resign at the end of March after being slow to admit that the SNP had lost 30% of its members in a few months.
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