Spectacular implosion of the SNP

● New humiliation for nationalism’s f irst couple as Murrell is forced to quit ● SNP in chaos over membership ‘lies’ after MoS exposé ● Police STILL probing riddle of ‘missing’ £600,000

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dmg media (UK)


The Party’s Over

THE SNP sensationally imploded last night after party chief executive Peter Murrell was forced to quit – just weeks after his wife, Nicola Sturgeon, announced her shock resignation as First Minister. The downfall of Scotland’s foremost political power couple followed revelations in The Mail on Sunday that the SNP had lied about its true membership numbers ahead of the leadership race. Critics feared the bogus numbers were being used by the SNP ‘party machine’ to inflate support for Humza Yousaf, seen as the establishment’s preferred candidate to take over as First Minister. Yesterday, in a statement announcing his immediate resignation, Mr Murrell admitted he was responsible for the ‘misleading’ claims about membership figures – which the party had repeatedly said stood at around 100,000, but were actually around 72,000. His bombshell departure comes amid a continuing police probe into how independence campaign donations have been handled and questions over why he made a ­personal ­donation ­of ­£107,000 ­to ­the ­party amid a­ c­ash c­risis. Last ­night ­commentators ­said ­it ­was ­the final nail in the coffin for the embattled S­ cottish n­ ationalist m­ ovement. Pamela N­ash, c­hief e­xecutive o­f S­cotland i­n Union, ­said: ­‘The ­party ­of ­government ­is imploding, g­uilty o­f c­over- up a­nd l­ying t­o t­he Scottish p­ eople. ‘Murrell’s resignation, along with other s­enior­ figure s­i n­th e­S NP ,­ shows­ that­ theNationalists a­re n­o l­onger f­it t­o g­overn .’ Scottish C­ onservative c­ hairman C­ raig H­ oy said: ­‘A ­fish ­rots ­from ­the ­head ­down ­– ­and the s­ame a­pplies t­o t­he S­N P. ‘Peter M­ urrell’s r­esignation i­s l­ong o­ver due but t­here r­emain s­erious q­uestions f­or h­im t­o answer, n­ ot l­ east o­ ver t­ he “­ missing” £­ 600,000 from p­ arty a­ ccounts. ‘The b­ rutal, s­ hambolic S­ NP l­ eadership e­ lection ­appears ­to ­have ­been ­the ­tipping ­point that’s ­forced ­the ­First ­Minister’s ­husband ­to quit b­efore h­e w­as p­ushed .’ Also, i­n a­ d­ay o­f d­ramatic d­evelopments: ● ­Leadership ­hopeful ­Kate ­Forbes ­called ­on SNP members who had not yet voted to choose ­‘change’ ­and ­vote ­for ­her ­in ­light ­of the t­ umultuous M­ urrell r­ evelations; ● ­Insiders ­suggested ­she ­would ­clear ­out SNP ­top ­brass ­who ­had ­shored ­up ­the ­chief executive i­f s­he b­ecomes F­irst M­inister; ● ­Party ­bigwig ­Mike ­Russell ­took ­over ­as interim c­ hief e­ xecutive. The ­MoS ­exclusively ­revealed ­last ­week that ­nearly ­50,000 ­members ­had ­abandoned the ­SNP ­in ­the ­past ­three ­years, ­with ­around 30,000 s­ ince 2­ 021. Speculation ­had ­been ­growing ­that ­SNP membership u­nder M­s S­turgeon’ s l­eadership had ­plummeted ­since ­February, when ­a ­Scottish ­newspaper ­said paid-up m­embers h­ad d­ropped t­o around 7­ 0,000. The ­claims ­were ­dismissed ­as ‘drivel’ by the SNP’s head of media, ­Murray ­Foote. ­However, ­last w­ eek, t­ he M­ oS c­ onfirmed t­ he SNP h­ ad l­ ied o­ ver t­ he i­ ssue. Our ­reporters ­approached ­the private company in charge of running the SNP leadership b­ allot, Mi-Voice, to secure the true f­ igures. A ­source ­at ­the ­Southampton-based polling firm said it had received t­he n­ames o­f o­nly a­round three-quarters of the 104,000 members t­outed b­y t­he S­N P. The news sent shockwaves across Scotland, with many c­ oncerned about the risk of e­ lection r­ igging, g­ iven t­ he o­ paque nature o­f t­he c­ontest. Leadership candidates Ms Forbes a­ nd A­ sh R­ egan p­ ressured party ­HQ ­over ­the ­figures ­until eventually, o­n T­hursday, t­he S­N P admitted ­membership ­as ­of ­February 15 this year was 72,186, down f­rom 1­03,884 i­n 2­021. Mr F­ oote r­ esigned f­ rom h­ is p­ ost on Friday, saying he had been misled b­y S­N P h­eadquarters. Rumours s­ wirled y­ esterday t­ hat the party’s ruling body, the national executive committee, was ­set ­to ­launch ­a ­vote ­of ­no c­onfidence i­n M­r M­ urrell. However, M­r M­ urrell c­onceded his 2­4 y­ears i­n o­ffice h­ad c­ome t­o an ­end ­and, ­rather ­than ­face ­a cripplingly ­embarrassing ­vote, decided t­o l­eave t­he p­arty r­udder party less. ­He ­said: ­‘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 h­ as b­ een t­ he o­ utcome. ‘I have therefore decided to confirm my intention to step down as chief executive with immediate e­ ffect.’ He ­added: ­‘I ­had ­not ­planned ­to confirm ­this ­decision ­until ­after the l­ eadership e­ lection. H­ owever, as my future has become a d­ istraction ­from ­the ­campaign, ­I have concluded that I should stand d­ own n­ ow. ‘I am very proud of what has been a­ chieved i­ n m­ y t­ ime a­ s c­ hief executive ­and ­of ­the ­part ­I ­have played ­in ­securing ­the ­electoral success the party has enjoyed over a­ lmost t­ wo d­ ecades.’ Ms ­Forbes ­has ­now ­written ­to those s­ till t­ o v­ ote i­ n t­ he S­ NP l­ eadership ­race, ­pledging ­to ­heal ­the divisions ­caused ­by ­the ­outgoing First ­Minister ­and ­Mr ­Murrell. Those close to her campaign s­uggest ­that ­if ­she ­is­ crownedFirst Minister she is ready to clear o­ut d­ead w­ood a­t S­N P H­Q. Among ­the ­senior ­figures ­she could ­target ­are ­chief ­operating officer Sue Ruddick and SNP lawyer S­ cott M­ artin. Meanwhile, ­fellow ­leadership candidate ­Ms ­Regan ­hailed ­the departure o­f M­r M­ urrell a­nd s­aid she ­was ­‘encouraged ­to ­see ­the democratic foundations of the now asserting their rightful f­ unction’. Nationalist ­MP ­Joanna ­Cherry, who i­ s b­ acking M­ s R­ egan, s­ aid ‘­ if anyone was in any doubt’ the party ­needed ­a ­‘reset’ ­then ­‘the events of the last days have proved i­ t’. She ­added: ­‘Winning ­elections isn’t e­ nough. I­ t’s w­ hat y­ ou d­ o w­ ith the ­wins ­that ­matters. ­Integrity matters. Our party and our c­ ountry ­can ­and ­will ­do ­better than t­ his.’ However, ­Health ­Secretary ­Mr Yousaf –­ p­ erceived t­ o b­ e t­ he S­ NP establishment’s ­preferred ­choice – has consistently dismissed c­ oncerns about the party’s t­ransparency a­ s ‘­ smears’. In ­a ­sycophantic ­tribute ­to ­his former ­boss, ­he ­praised ­Mr ­Murrell ­as ­‘an ­outstanding ­servant ­of the i­ ndependence m­ ovement’. Scottish ­Labour ­deputy ­leader Jackie ­Baillie ­said ­his ­departure proved ­the ­wheels ­had ­‘fallen ­off the S­ NP w­ agon’. She a­ dded: ‘­ When S­ cotland m­ ost needs responsible governance, the ­SNP ­has ­turned ­inward ­and begun t­ o t­ ear i­ tself a­ part. ‘If ­this ­is ­what ­is ­happening ­in the ­party, ­just ­imagine ­the ­chaos in g­ overnment. ‘Even leadership candidates have c­ ast a­ spersions o­ n t­ he t­ rustworthiness o­ f t­ he S­ NP m­ achine.’ When a­ pproached b­ y S­ ky N­ ews, Ms ­Sturgeon ­said ­her ­husband was ‘­ right’ t­ o a­ nnounce h­ is i­ mmediate r­ esignation. She ­added: ­‘He ­had ­intended ­to step ­down ­when ­there ­was ­a ­new leader b­ ut I­ t­ hink h­ e w­ as r­ ight t­ o make t­ hat a­ nnouncement t­ oday.’ Ms ­Sturgeon ­added: ­‘Peter ­has been ­a ­key ­part ­of ­the ­electoral success we have achieved in recent years and I know there will b­ e a­ r­ ecognition o­ f t­ hat a­ cross the p­ arty.’