Nicola Sturgeon describes 'incredibly difficult time' as SNP leader Humza Yousaf says Peter Murrell charge ‘really serious' matter

First Minister Humza Yousaf said it will be ‘a shock to many people’

Humza Yousaf has said he hopes voters will still trust the SNP as he described Nicola Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell being charged in connection with embezzlement of party funds as a “really serious and concerning matter”.

The First Minister said all those who have known Mr Murrell, the former chief executive of the SNP, “will be shocked”. It came as Ms Sturgeon, speaking to journalists outside her Glasgow home, said it was an “incredibly difficult” time.

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She said: "It is incredibly difficult, but that is not the main issue here. I can't say any more, I'm not going to say any more."

Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon is seen leaving her home in Glasgow. Picture: Peter Summers/Getty ImagesFormer first minister Nicola Sturgeon is seen leaving her home in Glasgow. Picture: Peter Summers/Getty Images
Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon is seen leaving her home in Glasgow. Picture: Peter Summers/Getty Images

Mr Murrell, 59, was taken into custody for questioning on Thursday morning, more than a year after his first arrest. Police confirmed on Thursday evening he had been charged as part of the probe. He has resigned his SNP membership.

Mr Yousaf said: "This is a serious development and, as per the police statement of course, an allegation of embezzlement from and of party funds – that's a really serious and concerning matter.

"And all of those people who have known Peter Murrell for a number of years within the SNP and across Scottish politics will be shocked. There is an ongoing police investigation. We've got to allow the police and indeed the Crown to do their job, just as I've got a job to do as First Minister."

Asked about trust in his party, Mr Yousaf added: "The police statement makes it very clear that an individual has been charged with embezzlement, embezzlement of funds from the SNP, and I think that's really important to reiterate here.

Humza YousafHumza Yousaf
Humza Yousaf

"So this will be a shock to many people, myself included, who have known Peter for a number of years. There is an ongoing investigation and I've got to let the police do their job. In terms of people trusting the SNP, I certainly hope, and I'm not ever complacent about this, that they will continue to trust us, because of the record of delivery."

Mr Yousaf said it was “the right thing to do” for Mr Murrell to resign his party membership. The First Minister said he only became aware of the charge when police released a statement.

Mr Murrell’s charge is part of a probe known as Operation Branchform into the spending of more than £600,000 in donations for independence campaigning.

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Police Scotland said in a statement: “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.”

Mr Murrell arrived at the home he shares with Ms Sturgeon on the outskirts of Glasgow shortly after 8pm on Thursday.

Ms Sturgeon, who resigned as first minister and SNP leader in February 2023, was arrested two months after her husband was first arrested, while former party treasurer Colin Beattie was also arrested last year.

Both Ms Sturgeon and Mr Beattie were released without charge pending further investigation.

Mr Murrell stepped down as SNP chief executive – a role he had held for more than 20 years – during last year’s leadership campaign. He has been married to Ms Sturgeon since 2010.