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Nicola Sturgeon insists ‘I’ve done nothing wrong’ after fraud probe arrest

Former SNP leader says she will face parliament next week

William Mata
Sunday 18 June 2023 20:58 BST
Nicola Sturgeon claims she has 'done nothing wrong' in first interview since arrest

Nicola Sturgeon used her first media opportunity since her arrest to proclaim her innocence over the SNP finance probe, telling cameras: “I’ve done nothing wrong.”

Scotland’s former first minister briefly spoke in front of her Glasgow home where she returned on Sunday and announced her intentions to be back in parliament in the early part of the week.

Nicola Sturgeon returns to her home after her arrest (PA)

Ms Sturgeon was questioned by police in connection with the inquiry into the SNP’s finances and was released without charge on 11 June, pending further investigation.

Ms Sturgeon was the third person to be arrested as Police Scotland continue to look into how more than £600,000 in donations to the party earmarked for an independence referendum has been used.

Her husband Peter Murrell, the SNP’s former chief executive, and ex-SNP treasurer Colin Beattie MSP have also been arrested and then released without charge.

Ms Sturgeon resigned from leading the party on 27 March and, after a leadership battle, was succeeded by Humza Yousaf.

“I can’t say very much just now,” she said talking of her arrest on Sunday. “What I will say is reiterate the statement I issued last Sunday. I’m certain that I have done nothing wrong.

“I intend to be back in parliament in the early part of the week. I’ll make myself available for questions then. For now, I intend to go home and catch up with some family.”

The issue could prove damaging for the Scottish National Party, with a Sunday Times poll showing Labour could take over as the largest party in Westminster in next year’s election.

Asked whether conditions have been placed on her after her arrest, she told the media: "No, and I’m not going to get into anything other than that."

She then asked for privacy for her and her neighbours.

Colin Beattie has also been arrested (PA Media)

Why are the SNP being investigated?

Operation Branchform – although not initially under that name – was launched in the months after a formal complaint was filed in March 2021.

Party activist Sean Clerkin alleged that around £666,953 in donations raised since 2017 for a second independence referendum campaign had been spent on other things, contrary to promises made to supporters.

In the months preceding the announcement of the probe, several senior figures – including SNP treasurer Douglas Chapman and MSP Joanna Cherry – quit the party’s national executive committee.

Ms Sturgeon denied the party had committed any financial wrongdoing and the inquiry stalled, prompting Mr Clerkin to call on police to speed up their efforts.

Officers outside the home of Nicola Sturgeon and former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell (PA)

In December 2022, it emerged that Mr Murrell had given a personal loan of £107,620 to the SNP in June 2021, which was paid to help out the party with a “cash flow” issue after the last Holyrood election, the SNP said.

No interest was being charged by Mr Murrell and £47,620 had been repaid in two instalments in August and October of 2021, Electoral Commission records revealed.

Mr Yousaf has since confirmed that the party still owes the remainder of the loan, presumably around £60,000, to its former chief executive.

Mr Clerkin lodged a fresh complaint with Police Scotland in January 2023 after it emerged that the SNP’s leadership had still not been questioned 18 months on from the inquiry’s launch, prompting the force to ask the Crown Office, the Scottish prosecution service, for “advice and direction” in the case. This then led to the arrests being made.

See our full explainer of the story here.

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