SNP urged to suspend Nicola Sturgeon's party membership after 'devastating' video

The SNP has been urged to suspend Nicola Sturgeon’s membership amid the ongoing fallout from the scandal engulfing the party.

Opposition politicians called for action against the former first minister after video footage emerged of her insisting the SNP’s financial position had never been stronger – just a few months before police launched a formal investigation into the party’s funding and finances.

Speaking at a meeting of the national executive committee (NEC), the SNP’s ruling body, in March 2021, Ms Sturgeon urged members to be “very careful” about suggestions there were problems with the party’s finances, “because we depend on donors to donate”.

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Douglas Chapman resigned as the SNP’s national treasurer in May that year, claiming he had not been given the support or financial information to carry out his duties. The following month, Peter Murrell, the party's chief executive and Ms Sturgeon’s husband, loaned it £107,620 “to assist with cash flow after the Holyrood election”.

Nicola SturgeonNicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon

Police launched a formal probe in July 2021 amid complaints over the whereabouts of £600,000 donated to the party for a fresh referendum campaign. The ongoing investigation has since seen Mr Murrell arrested and questioned for 11 hours before being released without charge, while the house he shares with Ms Sturgeon was searched by officers.

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said: “Nicola Sturgeon has huge questions to answer over this devastating video – which reveals everything that was wrong with the SNP under the control of her and Peter Murrell. For her to claim that the party’s finances were in rude health – a matter of weeks before a police investigation was launched into the missing £600,000 and her chief executive husband lent his own employers a six-figure sum to help with “cash-flow” issues – is frankly astonishing.

“Her trademark addiction to secrecy, and to image over candour, can be seen in her crude efforts to suppress any discussion from NEC members about the party’s finances because it might put off donors. No wonder ‘continuity candidate’ Humza Yousaf is now desperately trying to distance himself from the Sturgeon-Murrell era. The shocking lack of transparency among the toxic clique at the top of the SNP is what has got the party in its current mess.

“If Humza Yousaf wants to show he’s determined to tackle the crisis within the SNP, he should suspend the party membership of Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell.”

In the March 2021 footage, published by the Sunday Mail, Ms Sturgeon tells the NEC meeting: "The party has never been in a stronger financial position than it is right now, and that’s a reflection of our strength and our membership.”

She urged office holders to be “very careful, all of us, about suggestions that there are problems with the party’s finances, because we depend on donors to donate”. She added: "There are no reasons for people to be concerned about the party’s finances and all of us need to be careful about not suggesting that there is. And lastly, we’ve got to be careful, as an NEC, we don’t reap what we sow. If we have leaks from this body, as I said earlier on, it limits the ability for open, free and frank discussion.”

The Sunday Mail reported police have now been handed emails suggesting Ms Sturgeon blocked the appointment of a party fundraising manager, who would have provided scrutiny and oversight, in June 2021.

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Scottish Labour’s deputy leader Jackie Baillie said Ms Sturgeon has “big questions to answer over her actions and [First Minister] Humza Yousaf must consider suspending her party membership and that of her husband, former chief executive Peter Murrell, until the investigation has been concluded”.

Elsewhere, Ian Blackford, the SNP’s former Westminster leader, said the party is “absolutely, categorically” solvent amid concerns it is running out of money. He said it is in “robust health” financially and can meet all its obligations and liabilities going forward.

Colin Beattie, the party’s treasurer, reportedly told the NEC over the weekend that the SNP was "having difficulty in balancing the books due to the reduction in membership and donors" and that a potential by-election in Rutherglen & Hamilton West would put it under further pressure.

The NEC agreed to hold a governance and transparency review following a meeting on Saturday, with forensic auditors potentially due to be appointed.

Mr Yousaf told journalists on Saturday: “We’re not close to bankruptcy. This is something I’ve read in some social media circles but, no, the party is solvent.”

Speaking yesterday, Mr Blackford said: “Absolutely, categorically, the SNP is solvent, the finances are in balance. We will be able to meet our obligations, our liabilities going forward. Everybody knows there has been a dip in SNP membership. I’d like to think that we can grow the membership over the course of the coming period, but when all is said and done, we’ve still got over 70,000 members – members that are paying subscriptions – donations coming in, parliamentarians making contributions.

"As would be normal, we’d be looking at how we can raise additional funds as well. The party will be ready to meet all its liabilities, and will certainly be ready to meet the challenge, if it comes, of a by-election in Rutherglen over the course of the coming period.”

Last week, it emerged the SNP’s auditors resigned more than six months ago and the party has yet to find a replacement firm. Mr Yousaf said he only became aware of the situation after being elected party leader.

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Asked when he became aware of the resignation of the auditors, Mr Blackford said: “I can’t tell you exactly when it was that I heard about this – over the course of the last period.”

Mr Hoy called this answer a “masterclass in obfuscation”, adding: “People inside and outside the SNP are sick and tired of senior figures’ secrecy and lack of transparency.”

Ms Baillie said: “That Blackford claims to not remember when he was told that the auditors had quit is mind-boggling. All the evidence shows that they resigned while he was leader of the SNP Westminster group.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Today’s revelations fly in the face of openness, transparency and, quite frankly, how any credible political party should be operating in an established modern democracy.

“We are now entering the third week of this terminal SNP soap opera. Peoples’ priorities around health, around education, around heating their homes are playing second fiddle to one of the biggest sideshows in Scottish political history.

“The antics inside the SNP high command put some of the worst excesses of Tory sleaze in the shade. It’s time for the SNP to come clean and put all this to bed, so that we can get on with combating the cost-of-living crisis, the NHS emergency and bridging a poverty gap that the nationalists have left to stagnate during their time in office."

Responding to the calls for Ms Sturgeon’s membership to be suspended, an SNP source said: “These calls are a sneak peek of what life under Labour would be like – no due process for anyone, just decisions taken on a whim by failed politicians”



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