Farewell, Peter Murrell, high heidyin of the Scottish National Party and husband of Nicola Sturgeon, outgoing First Minister of Scotland. Murrell has resigned as chief executive of the SNP with immediate effect.
The contest to replace Sturgeon has descended into acrimony, infighting and threats of legal challenges. Peter Murrell, as the man who has run the Nationalists since 1999, is likely to be at the centre of the many legal tussles to come.
On Friday, the party’s press chief at the Scottish parliament, Murray Foote, resigned when he discovered he had been misled by party headquarters. Press reports that the party had lost tens of thousands of members had been denied by Foote to journalists when the story broke earlier this year. It turned out it was true. The SNP has lost more than 30,000 members since 2021 and Foote had been given incorrect information by someone at party headquarters.
That was just the latest twist. There are suspicions voting papers have been issued to lapsed members and deep confusion about the process. The three leadership contenders have been attacking each other, with the SNP’s record in government trashed in the process.
Murrell has also been the focus of a long-running investigation into donations made to the party. Some £600,000 was raised for a dedicated fund to run a campaign for independence. The claim is it was subsumed into general party funds. Critics describe this as the “missing £600k”. Police Scotland has been investigating, albeit slowly. Murrell also loaned the party £107,000 to help with cash flow problems, which seems to have involved him not taking his salary for a time. Sturgeon said she was unaware, of everything.
Murrell issued a resignation statement on Saturday that did not suggest his full engagement with reality.
Referring to the Foote affair, he said:
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“While there was no intent to mislead, I accept that this has been the outcome. I have, therefore, decided to confirm my intention to step down as chief executive with immediate effect.”
He went on:
““I had not planned to confirm this decision until after the leadership election. However, as my future has become a distraction from the campaign, I have concluded that I should stand down now, so the party can focus fully on issues about Scotland’s future.”
Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said the “wheels are coming off the SNP wagon.”