Nicola Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell charged in police probe into SNP finances

Former chief executive of party accused over claims of embezzlement of party funds

Jane Dalton
Thursday 18 April 2024 21:49 BST
Scotland Politics
Scotland Politics (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The husband of Scottish former first minister Nicola Sturgeon has been charged in connection with embezzlement of funds from the SNP following a Police Scotland investigation into the party’s finances.

It is understood that Peter Murrell, who was chief executive of the party for more than 20 years, has resigned his SNP membership.

The 59-year-old, who was taken into custody on Thursday morning, had been previously arrested on 5 April last year at the couple’s home in Uddingston near Glasgow.

The couple’s home was searched last year (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)

He was interviewed under caution for nearly 12 hours before he was released without charge.

Ms Sturgeon herself was also later arrested and released without charge the same day.

She voluntarily arranged with Police Scotland to be questioned as part of the investigation into the party’s finances, a spokesman said.

The investigation, known as Operation Branchform, relates to £660,000 raised for Scottish independence campaigning since 2017.

Former party treasurer Colin Beattie was also arrested last April and released without charge.

Ms Sturgeon stood down as Scotland’s first minister and SNP leader last February, saying that the pressures of the job had become “very difficult” after eight years in charge.

The following month, Mr Murrell resigned as party chief executive following a row over transparency about party membership numbers and amid calls from party figures to make way after the departure of Ms Sturgeon. The couple married in 2010.

The accountancy firm that had been handling the SNP accounts resigned in 2022.

Ms Sturgeon has denied any wrongdoing and not commented on her husband.

Police Scotland said: “A 59-year-old man has today, Thursday, April 18, been charged in connection with the embezzlement of funds from the Scottish National Party.

“The man, who was arrested at 9.13am today and had previously been arrested as a suspect on April 5, 2023, was charged at 6.35pm after further questioning by Police Scotland detectives investigating the funding and finances of the party.

“A report will be sent to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in due course.

“The man is no longer in police custody.

“As this investigation is ongoing we are unable to comment further.

“The matter is active for the purposes of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 and the public are therefore advised to exercise caution if discussing it on social media.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “While this development will come as a shock, the police investigation remains ongoing and it would, therefore, be inappropriate to make any comment.”

A spokesperson for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) said: “Senior professional prosecutors from COPFS and an Advocate Depute are working with police on this ongoing investigation.

“It is standard practice that any case regarding politicians is dealt with by prosecutors without the involvement of the Lord Advocate or Solicitor General. All Scotland’s prosecutors act independently of political interference.

“As is routine, to protect the integrity of ongoing investigations, we do not comment in detail on their conduct.”

Ms Sturgeon’s successor, Humza Yousaf, has said the investigation clearly affected the public’s perception of the party.

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