The former first minister was allowed to keep her security detail of six officers and vehicles with the taxpayer picking up the bill, despite the likes of Alex Salmond and Jack McConnell not receiving the same service
By Lucy Ashton
Nicola Sturgeon has been stripped of her £600,000 a year police protection, according to reports. And it has emerged the former SNP leader was under Police Scotland protection when she was arrested in relation to a fraud probe into SNP finances
This will come as good news to the majority of the electorate in Scotland who will be aghast when they find out that she had it in the first place.
Despite other ex-first ministers not being granted security details, Ms Sturgeon, pictured right with local MPs Martin Docherty-Hughes and Brendan O’Hara, was allowed to keep hers on after she left office in March, with the taxpayer picking up the bill.
However, it has now been claimed that a row behind the scenes over the cost to the public purse has led police and government chiefs to pull the plug.
According to The Sun, the change was signed off by the former Chief Constable Sir Iain Livingstone and the Scottish Government’s top official, Permanent Secretary John-Paul Marks.
It has also emerged that Ms Sturgeon’s cop team – said to comprise six rotating staff and vehicles – was still in place when she was arrested as part of Operation Branchform. She was later released without charge.
Scottish Tory MSP and Shadow Justice Secretary Russell Findlay said: “With the SNP cutting Police Scotland’s budget by hundreds of millions of pounds, the force has to make some incredibly tough spending decisions to keep the people of Scotland safe.
However, the decision to axe Nicola Sturgeon’s £600,000-a-year protection will have been taken following rigorous and scrupulous assessment of all potential risk.
“For a politician under 24/7 police protection to have been arrested by other Police Scotland detectives must surely have been a first.” Ms Sturgeon announced she was standing down as SNP leader and first minister in February.
Just days after she eventually left office in March, her husband Peter Murrell was arrested by Branchform officers and the home the couple share was raided. Then-SNP treasurer Colin Beattie was arrested two weeks later as detectives continue to probe an alleged ‘missing’ £600,000 of party funds.
Sources told The Sun that Police Scotland and the government had been concerned about threats made to Ms Sturgeon. However, some officials had become concerned about the use of resources amid claims of a “row” behind the scenes.
SNP insiders say Ms Sturgeon is pleased to be returning to a sense of normality while her successor Humza Yousaf said last week she was sick of being under police watch.
The paper quotes sources who said there had been “push-back” against the decision, although not from Ms Sturgeon, while another said it was “unusual” for ex-ministers to keep their security team for so long after leaving office.
The Scottish Government stopped publishing details of Ms Sturgeon’s car journeys in 2017, citing police advice. We previously told how the government refused to release this advice through a Freedom of Information request while Police Scotland said it had no record of any such advice.