Peter Murrell, spouse of Nicola Sturgeon, was questioned in the course of a probe of her party’s finances
Peter Murrell, the husband of former Scottish prime minister Nicola Sturgeon, was “arrested as a suspect” and questioned on Wednesday “in connection with the ongoing investigation into the funding and finances of the Scottish National Party,” police revealed on Wednesday.
Murrell was released without charges “pending further investigation” after being held for nearly 12 hours, according to police, who said a prosecution report was being compiled for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.
Police reportedly searched the SNP’s Edinburgh headquarters and several other addresses as well as Murrell and Sturgeon’s Glasgow residence, setting up a large evidence tent over the the front of the house and garden.
Sturgeon had “no prior knowledge” of the arrest or search, a spokesperson told The Guardian on Wednesday, but “will fully cooperate with Police Scotland if required.”
The probe arose from complaints about the SNP’s handling of over £600,000 in donations solicited to campaign for and hold a second independence referendum. While the promised referendum has been repeatedly postponed with no current date set despite repeated promises from Sturgeon, the money has allegedly been spent already – on daily expenses, leaving the party with a deficit of £752,000 and £145,000 in cash for 2021. Sturgeon insisted at the time that “every penny” raised for independence campaigning would be spent as donors had intended.
Last year, Murrell was discovered to have loaned the party more than £100,000 to assist with “cash flow” problems following the last election. Sturgeon also loaned the SNP £107,620 in June 2021, half of which was repaid by October of that year, according to the BBC – even though a party spokesman claimed the loan was not a loan at all but a “personal contribution” by the chief executive.
Sturgeon stepped down as head of the SNP in February after eight years in the position, citing mental and physical exhaustion. While she declined to say whether the police inquiry into her party’s finances had influenced her decision to quit, her successor, SNP first minister Humza Youssef, said he did not believe it was a factor. Murrell resigned from the party last month after admitting to misleading the public about a decline in its membership numbers.
Youssef, who took office less than two weeks ago, described the news of Murrell’s arrest as “challenging” and “difficult,” pledging the party’s ongoing cooperation and pointing out that it had committed to a review on governance and transparency. The SNP has denied all wrongdoing.