LEADERSHIP: Peter Murrell resigns as SNP chief executive

Sturgeon’s husband was told he faced a vote of ‘no confidence’ if he failed to tender his resignation

Peter Murrell resigns as SNP chief executive amid row over membership numbers

Peter Murrell has resigned as chief executive of the SNP in the wake of a row over lying to the press about party membership numbers.

The party’s communications director, Murray Foote, a former editor of the Daily Record, quit on Friday after being told “false information” over the number of people eligible to vote on the successor to Nicola Sturgeon at Holyrood.

Murrell, who is the outgoing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, has now followed suit after the party’s non-executive committee reportedly threatened him with a vote of no confidence.

Suddenly the whole SNP leadership game has changed with Ash Regan, who as been described by Dumbarton MSP and deputy leader of the Labour Party in Scotland, Jackie Baillie, as “politically illiterate” is edging towards favoritism to take up residence at Bute House.

Party insiders say it was Regan’s determination that there should be transparency in the election process and that an independent observer and company of tally men should be brought in to conduct that count that had started the collapse of the Sturgeon regime.

Ash Regan and Katie Forbes, whose campaign got off to a disastrous start over her Wee Free religion-linked views on gay marriage and gender reform, has seen a number of “progressive” MSPs quit her camp while Humza “useless” Yousaf continues to make major gaffs.

His most recent one when he asked a group of Ukrainian women in Edinburgh who were at an event he attended where all the men were is being laughed out of the competition for the top job.

The fact that Regan has been shown to be “politically illiterate” has done no harm to her chances where she has been seen to be confident and articulate and the only candidate who has firmly made up views on independence.

In a letter issued to the party, Murrell said the responsibility of the disclosure of membership numbers “lies with him,” though added he had initially intended to step down after the vote.

“Responsibility for the SNP’s responses to media queries about our membership number lies with me as chief executive,” he wrote.

“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.”

He then tried to say he was going anyway – “I had not planned to confirm this decision until after the leadership election. However as my future has become a distraction from the campaign I have concluded that I should stand down now, so the party can focus fully on issues about Scotland’s future.”

Contenders Katie Forbes and Ash Regan will fight to the end.

It comes after leadership candidates Kate Forbes and Ash Regan questioned the integrity of the ballot, which is due to close on March 27, alleging there was a “conflict of interest” over Murrell’s marriage to Sturgeon and his position overseeing the contest to replace her.

Humza Yousaf meanwhile pledged to “speak to [Peter] and see what his plans are for the future” if elected as Holyrood leader.

But Murrell denied he had “any role in the election contest”.

“I am very proud of what has been achieved in my time as Chief Executive and of the part I have played in securing the electoral success the party has enjoyed over almost two decades,” he wrote.

“Fourteen national election wins is testament to the skills of the dedicated and talented HQ team that I have been privileged to lead. They give their all to the Party and the independence cause and I thank them for it.

“The election contest is being run by the National Secretary and I have had no role in it at any point.

“I have worked for independence all my life and will continue to do so, albeit in a different capacity, until it is achieved – and I do firmly believe that independence is now closer than ever.“

Foote – a former editor of the Daily Record and employee of Reach, which also owns the Lennox Herald – resigned after the party wrongly claimed membership numbers were at around 100,000.

However, on Thursday, the party said membership as of February 15 of this year was 72,186 – having fallen from 103,884 in 2021.

The SNP previously said it would only release the information following the outcome of the leadership race later this month, however was pressured to do so earlier by all three candidates vying to become First Minister.

Jackie Baillie, left,  MSP for Dumbarton constituency, which includes Vale of Leven, Helensburgh and Lomond, and deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party, said: ” “This latest resignation of a top SNP figure goes to show that the wheels have fallen off the SNP wagon.

“When Scotland most needs responsible governance, the SNP has turned inward and begun to tear itself apart.  If this is what is happening in the party, just imagine the chaos in government.

“Even leadership candidates have cast aspersions on the trustworthiness of the SNP machine.  While Scots struggle to get by, the SNP are fighting like ferrets in a sack. Scotland deserves better than this divided SNP government.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy MSP, pictured right,  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’ £600k 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.  When two of the three candidates publicly question the integrity of the contest to elect Scotland’s First Minister and the party’s top spin doctor quits because he was fed lies by senior party figures, then the game is up.

“While he may be quitting as chief executive, Peter Murrell must fully cooperate with any probes into the way this leadership election has been run – and with the police inquiry into the SNP’s finances.

“This ongoing SNP civil war is disastrous for the whole of Scotland. How can a party that is unable to govern itself possibly govern the country?

“The public’s real priorities are being ignored as the SNP turns inwards on itself – and that will remain the case whoever emerges from this carnage as First Minister.”

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