No reason for Nicola Sturgeon to resign as SNP MSP, claims Humza Yousaf

Nicola Sturgeon has no reason to resign as an SNP MSP her successor as First Minister and party leader Humza Yousaf has claimed, as allies say they do not think the former leader will quit Holyrood.
Nicola Sturgeon arrives home at the weekend. Picture: Stuart Wallace/ShutterstockNicola Sturgeon arrives home at the weekend. Picture: Stuart Wallace/Shutterstock
Nicola Sturgeon arrives home at the weekend. Picture: Stuart Wallace/Shutterstock

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His comments come as the crisis engulfing his party threatens to overshadow a key statement to Holyrood on Tuesday where the new First Minister will set out his priorities for Scotland.

The crisis surrounding Scotland’s governing party deepened over the weekend after a leaked video saw Ms Sturgeon play down concerns about the SNP’s finances at a meeting of its governing body in March 2021, months before police began their investigation into the alleged ‘missing £600,000”.

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Ms Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell, was arrested and questioned for 11 hours in connection with the investigation as the couple’s house and SNP headquarters was searched by police. Mr Murrell was later released without charge “pending further investigation”.

First Minister Humza Yousaf addresses delegates on the first day of the STUC Congress in DundeeFirst Minister Humza Yousaf addresses delegates on the first day of the STUC Congress in Dundee
First Minister Humza Yousaf addresses delegates on the first day of the STUC Congress in Dundee

Allies including the former SNP leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, rejected opposition party demands for Ms Sturgeon’s suspension from the SNP amid speculation the former leader could quit as a parliamentarian altogether.

SNP MSPs are also openly questioning whether Ms Sturgeon will be seen in the Scottish Parliament again after a spokesperson for the former first minister confirmed the MSP would not return to Holyrood this week, claiming she had always planned to “participate remotely”

With the SNP in crisis, Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, repeated his calls for a snap Holyrood election in a speech in Pollok, Glasgow, as he continues his party’s attempts to take advantage of the turmoil surrounding the SNP.

He told a Labour rally in the First Minister’s constituency that the SNP was “replacing cover-up and secrecy with incompetence and delusion”.

Humza Yousaf, who earlier on Monday had made a speech to the Scottish Trades Union Congress in Dundee, said he could not “understand the reasons or rationale” behind those calling for Ms Sturgeon to be suspended.

He told reporters: “Of course the only people claiming that are our political opponents and they are hardly dispassionate, objective observers of what is happening within the SNP.

"I think we’re far past the point where Nicola Sturgeon, for example, has to account for her husband’s actions. Peter [Murrell] has been questioned as we know under caution, that’s a serious matter of course, but as I’ve already said I don’t think there is any reason whatsoever for Nicola Sturgeon to even consider resigning from the party.”

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The First Minister also said he was not “particularly disturbed” by the leaked video “in the way that some of our opponents seem to be”.

He added: ““It tends to be the case that you fundraise in advance of an election and tend to spend quite a fair bit of money during an election.

“After the election, of course, is when you want to make sure you can address any cash flow issues that you might have as a result of that big spend.”

Mr Yousaf also said he “wouldn’t have minded if she [Ms Sturgeon] was there or if she was not there” during his first major parliamentary speech as First Minister on Tuesday.

“That’s a decision for Nicola,” he said, “I wouldn’t have minded if she was there or if she was not there, that’s entirely a decision for her. I’m very committed tomorrow to being able to present what the priorities are for the government that I lead.”

Early on Monday, a spokesperson for Nicola Sturgeon was defiant, claiming the former first minister had always intended to stay on as an MSP and that this “remains the case”.

They said: “Nicola Sturgeon made clear when she resigned as First Minister that it is her intention to remain as the SNP MSP for Glasgow Southside and that remains the case.

"In order to ensure the focus of this week is on the new First Minister setting out his priorities for the people of Scotland, Ms Sturgeon has always intended to participate remotely and intends to return to Holyrood in the near future.”

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But one SNP MSP said they thought this might not be the case and criticised Ms Sturgeon’s attitude towards questions around the party’s finances while she was leader.

“The reports from this weekend confirmed that the ruling SNP NEC has not been getting given the financial information it should have been for a long time,” they said.

“The approach of ‘trust me, it’s all good’ has been shown to be very foolhardy.

“I am not convinced we shall see Nicola back in the Scottish Parliament at all, as matters are likely to get worse before they get better.”

Another SNP source told the Daily Telegraph there was “growing suspicion now that she will be stepping down sooner rather than later”.

Other SNP figures said they would be “amazed” if Ms Sturgeon quit the party, with some pointing at the lack of political benefit from such a decision which would result in a by-election in her constituency where she beat Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar in 2021.

One source said there was a degree of rewriting history from internal opponents who at the time of the video in 2021 were more concerned about opposing gender recognition reform than the SNP’s finances.

Mr Blackford, flatly rejected calls from opponents that Ms Sturgeon should be suspended by the party as the investigation continues.

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“Goodness gracious, absolutely not, there’s no reason for that at all,” Mr Blackford said when asked if the former first minister should be sanctioned by the SNP.

“I think that’s some of our opponents politicking, really, in this context.”

In the video, Mr Blackford said, there was “nothing which was in any way untoward”, adding: “What the (former) first minister was reflecting on was the ability of the SNP to conduct itself as an organisation, having the financial resources in order to fight elections and to support its members.”

The MP added he had first become aware of the resignation of the party’s auditors, Johnston Carmichael, “towards the tail end of last year”, claiming it was common for organisations to regularly “review their arrangements”.

Craig Hoy, the Scottish Conservative chair, said Ms Sturgeon should “answer for her comments” in the leaked video in which she said the finances were in good shape.

He said: “It’s because of that misleading claim that there is huge media interest in the former First Minister – and only she can make that go away by fronting up.

“Equally, Nicola Sturgeon has responsibilities as Glasgow Southside MSP. She cannot neglect her constituents’ needs just because she wants to avoid scrutiny.

“If she is to work remotely, she must be a genuine and active participant in the parliamentary process. This can’t be an excuse for her to go into hiding.

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“In the meantime, Humza Yousaf should suspend Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell from the SNP unless and until this matter is satisfactorily resolved.”

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