SNP ‘imploding’ after Nicola Sturgeon’s husband quits as bitter party divisions exposed

The SNP is “imploding” after Nicola Sturgeon‘s husband Peter Murrell announced he was stepping down as the party’s chief executive. Mr Murrell said on Saturday he was quitting with immediate effect. It followed suggestions the party’s ruling National Executive Committee was mulling a vote of no confidence in him.

The decision to resign came amid an ugly row over SNP membership numbers which was sparked by a bitter battle now taking place to replace Ms Sturgeon as both SNP leader and Scotland’s First Minister.

Mr Murrell said in a statement: “Responsibility for the SNP’s responses to media queries about our membership number lies with me as chief executive.

“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.”

Political opponents have rounded on the SNP in the wake of the announcement.

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy MSP said: “A fish rots from the head down and the same applies to the SNP.

“Peter Murrell’s resignation is long overdue, but there remain serious questions for him to answer, not least over the ‘missing’ £600,000 from party accounts.

“The brutal, shambolic SNP leadership election appears to have been the tipping point that’s forced the First Minister’s husband to quit before he was pushed.”

But Ms Sturgeon told Sky News her husband had “obviously taken responsibility for the recent issue with membership”.

She added: “He had intended to step down when there was a new leader but I think he was right to make that announcement today.”

Scotland’s outgoing First Minister continued: “Peter has been a key part of the electoral success we have achieved in recent years and I know there will be a recognition of that across the party.”

Michael Russell, the party’s current president, will take over the operation of SNP headquarters until a permanent replacement for Mr Murrell is found.

It follows the departure of the SNP media chief, Murray Foote, on Friday amid a row over the party’s declining membership numbers.

The SNP said on Thursday that membership as of February 15 this year was 72,186, having plummeted from 103,884 in 2021.

This corroborated a story in the Sunday Mail in February about the SNP shedding 30,000 members, something Mr Foote had strongly denied at the time.

Two of the leadership hopefuls seeking to replace Ms Sturgeon – Kate Forbes and Ash Regan – raised concerns earlier this week about the integrity of the election.

Scottish Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf, tipped as the favourite for the top job among the party hierarchy, dismissed these as “baseless smears”.

But Ms Regan had raised questions over how appropriate it was for Mr Murrell to run the leadership contest.

She said in response to his resignation: “Eight years ago was the point where it was unacceptable to have the husband of the party leader as the CEO.

“I am encouraged to see the democratic foundations of the party now asserting their rightful function.

“The SNP is more than capable of surviving this, as long as we stick true to our roots, and we uphold the values of our members.”

Ms Forbes told the BBC that the party owed a “debt of gratitude” to Mr Murrell following news of his resignation.

But she added: “From the very beginning, I have said that there’s an appetite for the party to be refreshed.”