A Political Probe in Scotland Leads to a High-Profile Arrest

Nicola Sturgeon's husband, Peter Murrell, being questioned as part of SNP finance investigation
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 5, 2023 7:38 AM CDT
High-Profile Arrest in Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon's Husband
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon poses for the media with husband Peter Murrell, outside polling station in Glasgow, Scotland, on Dec. 12, 2019.   (AP Photo/Scott Heppell, File)

There were enough complaints about the use—and alleged misuse—of Scottish National Party donations that Police Scotland launched a probe in July 2021. Now, a headline-grabbing development: Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon's husband has been "arrested as a suspect" in that investigation, reports the Guardian. Peter Murrell, 58, has been chief executive of the party since 1999; he resigned last month, just before Sturgeon, whom he wed in 2010, left office after her own resignation. The BBC reports Murrell is in police custody and being questioned, and that police were spotted outside the couple's Glasgow home. The SNP headquarters in Edinburgh are also reportedly being searched.

As for what sparked the probe, the BBC reports seven people registered complaints about £600,000 in donations ($750,000 in today's dollars) that had been made in support of a second independence referendum campaign. Sturgeon said at the time that she was "not concerned" and that "every penny" would go toward the independence bid. The AP reports Murrell's March 18 resignation came "amid a controversy about the party’s declining membership": Murrell initially denied a report the party's numbers had dropped from 100,000 to 70,000 in a year's time, then admitted it was true.

Deputy Scottish Labour leader Jackie Baillie characterized the arrest as "deeply concerning" and urged Sturgeon and her successor, Humza Yousaf, to "urgently state what they knew and when." The AP offers backstory on the independence bid, reporting Sturgeon took the reins in 2014 when Scots voted 55-45 to remain in the UK. Sturgeon and the SNP subsequently lobbied for a second referendum, saying Brexit had altered the situation. Scotland has been seeking to hold that referendum in October, but it needs the UK government's permission to do so; it hasn't been granted. (More Nicola Sturgeon stories.)

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