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Scottish National Party Chief Executive Resigns Amid Party Membership Figures Row



Peter Murrell Announces Immediate Resignation

Peter Murrell, chief executive of the Scottish National Party (SNP) since 2000, has announced his resignation with immediate effect, as an escalating row over party membership figures engulfs the party’s senior echelons. Murrell, who is married to the SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon, released a statement confirming his planned resignation, but stated he was stepping down now due to his future becoming a “distraction from the campaign”

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Murrell Intended to Step Down After Leadership Contest

Murrell stated he had originally planned to step down after the leadership contest to replace his wife had concluded, however, the row over party membership figures, which has prompted calls for an overhaul in the way the SNP carries out internal business, has caused him to bring his resignation forward. All three candidates vying to replace Sturgeon welcomed his decision, however, only Humza Yousaf, widely understood to be the party leadership’s preferred successor, praised him as “an outstanding servant of the independence movement and the SNP”.

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Michael Russell Takes Over Operations on Interim Basis

The SNP president, Michael Russell, will oversee the operation of its headquarters on an interim basis following Murrell’s resignation. Russell will be in charge until a new leader is in position and a permanent chief executive is appointed.

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Pressure on Murrell to Apologise

Murrell’s position became untenable after the party’s head of communications, Murray Foote, resigned on Friday evening. Foote declared he had been furnished with false information by “colleagues at party HQ” regarding disputed membership figures, prompting calls for Murrell to apologise. According to the Herald, Murrell had been told to resign by the end of the day or face a vote of no confidence from the party’s national executive committee.

Membership Figures Row Fuels Pressure to Release Figures

The SNP revealed on Thursday the total number of members eligible to vote in its leadership contest had fallen to 72,186, after an intense lobbying from all three leadership candidates to release the figures. Two of the candidates – the finance minister, Kate Forbes, and Ash Regan, a former junior minister – questioned the integrity of the ballot process. The number of members released was notably lower than that previously estimated by party sources and briefed to journalists in the early stages of the campaign. It also confirmed a Sunday Mail report from February that the SNP’s membership had decreased by 30,000 since 2021, which Foote had dismissed as “drivel”.

Murrell to Step Aside and be Replaced

The unexpected resignation of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in February sparked calls for Murrell to be replaced as a more impartial caretaker figure, due to criticisms levelled at the couple couple’s effect on transparency and accountability. Sturgeon’s resignation also increased speculation of a Police Scotland investigation into the fate of the £600k donated to the SNP for its next independence referendum campaign, as well as of Murrell’s loan of £107k to the party to “assist with cashflow” after the 2021 Holyrood election campaign.

Last Days of Leadership Contest

With less than two weeks until the leadership election, Forbes published an open letter to SNP members urging them not to sit out the election due to “negative stories.” She promised a series of changes to increase transparency in the party’s internal operations, including conducting independent audits of finances and membership numbers. Speaking about Murrell’s sudden resignation, Regan expressed her satisfaction in seeing the party’s democratic foundations asserting their “rightful function”. Meanwhile, Yousaf thanks Murrell and urged everyone to concentrate on policies and vision for the SNP, movement and country.



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