Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell, has stepped down as Chief Executive of the SNP with immediate effect amid demands from within the party that he step down – while rivals vie to replace her as leader.
Murrell announced his resignation on Saturday morning after a group of members of the SNP’s governing body attempted to remove him.
A majority of members were reportedly ready to support a vote of no confidence in the Chief Executive if he did not leave voluntarily.
The party is facing political turmoil after Nicola Sturgeon announced her intention to step down as prime minister and leader of the SNP earlier this year.
His resignation follows the departure of SNP media chief Murray Foote on Friday amid a row over party membership.
Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell, has resigned as SNP Chief Executive
Mr Murrell has been the Chief Executive of the SNP for the past 20 years
Mr Foote said that after talking to party headquarters he gave answers to the media who had “serious problems” and later decided there was a “serious impediment” to his role.
He had reportedly previously been told to deny the reports as ‘inaccurate’ and ‘nonsense’ – and was accused of providing false membership numbers to a Mail journalist.
On Thursday, the party revealed that membership stood at 72,186 as of February 15 this year, compared to 103,884 in 2021.
The numbers only emerged after the party was accused of a lack of integrity and transparency, including by those seeking to replace Sturgeon himself.
Just before Mr Murrell announced his resignation, a senior member of the SNP’s governing body told Sky News: “The responsibility ends with Peter… he shouldn’t have thrown a junior member of staff under the bus.”
Mr. Murrell has been the party’s chief executive for more than 20 years.
There have also been multiple protests from SNP members that the leadership contest to determine Ms Sturgeon’s replacement was overseen by her own husband.
In a statement, Mr Murrell said: ‘Responsibility for the SNP’s responses to media inquiries about our membership number rests with me as CEO. While it was not intended to mislead, I accept that this has been the result. I have therefore decided to confirm my intention to step down as CEO with immediate effect.
“I was not going to confirm this decision until after the election of the leaders.
“However, as my future has become a distraction from the campaign, I have concluded that I must now resign so that the party can concentrate fully on issues of Scotland’s future.
‘The election competition is led by the Secretary of State and I have not played a part in it at any time.
“I am very proud of what has been accomplished in my time as president and of the role I have played in securing the party’s electoral success for nearly two decades.
“14 national election victories are testament to the skills of the dedicated and talented HQ team I have had the pleasure of leading.
“They give everything to the party and the independence cause and I thank them for that.
“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 firmly believe that independence is now closer than ever.”
The SNP is in political turmoil following Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation last month
SNP leader candidate Kate Forbes today acknowledged “extraordinary unrest” in the party.
On Saturday, Ms Forbes sent an open letter to SNP members who had yet to cast their votes.
But she herself was beset by trouble after telling the media that she would have voted against allowing same-sex marriage according to her conservative religious beliefs.
She told members: “Many of you, like me, will be hurt and bewildered by the extraordinary unrest in our party over the past few days.
“If anyone had any doubts that this should be a change election for the SNP, the recent events and resignations confirm the core message of my campaign: continuity is not enough.”
She continued: ‘I love the SNP and I’m passionate about Scotland’s future as an independent, fair and prosperous nation.
‘A few years ago a scandal rocked the SNP and I was asked to step up and deliver the budget in a matter of hours.
“I did it, for my party and for the people of this country. That is the hallmark of who I am. I will not shy away from difficult times.
“Instead, I find the solution and give it my all.
“I have a lot of respect for the two other candidates, but I am the only candidate who can really bring about change as prime minister.”
Ms Forbes, who is on maternity leave from her role as finance minister, vowed to reform the party and promised independent audits of membership and finances.
Ash Regan, one of the other candidates in the race, tweeted about the message that NEC members called on Mr Murrell to go.
She said, “I am encouraged to see the party’s democratic foundations now asserting their rightful functions.”
Fellow leadership candidate Humza Yousaf addressed Mr Foote’s departure on Friday.
He said Mr Foote ‘has been outstanding since joining the SNP media team’ and would be ‘dearly missed’.
Mr Yousaf added: ‘Reforming our headquarters operations has been an important part of my campaign. With new party leadership should come a new approach to our headquarters operation.’
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.