I haven't spoken to Nicola Sturgeon since husband's arrest, Humza Yousaf reveals as ex-FM re-emerges at Holyrood

25 April 2023, 18:21 | Updated: 25 April 2023, 19:03

Humza Yousaf said he has not spoken to Nicola Sturgeon since her husband's arrest
Humza Yousaf said he has not spoken to Nicola Sturgeon since her husband's arrest. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Will Taylor

SNP leader Humza Yousaf has not spoken to Nicola Sturgeon since her husband was arrested.

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The embattled party's newly-elected boss said wanted to check in with his predecessor because "it has been a difficult period for her".

This means he has not spoken to her since at least April 5, the day Peter Murrell was arrested as part of the police investigation into the party's finances.

Mr Murrell quit as SNP chief executive after he faced a vote of no confidence in his leadership in March, when it emerged the party's head of communications quit after inadvertently giving journalists bogus membership figures.

Read more: Colin Beattie quits as SNP treasurer after being arrested in party finance probe

That came just weeks after his wife quit as Scotland's first minister. The police investigation into what happened to £600,000 that was donated to the party continues, though she denied on Tuesday that she knew this was going to happen before she quit.

But her resignation, and Peter Murrell's arrest - he was later released without charge - have left the party in turmoil and scrambling to get its house in order by the next general election, with is reputation seriously dented.

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The task for fixing that is Mr Yousaf's. Asked if he had spoken to Ms Sturgeon recently, the first minister told LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr: "No, I've not contacted her since Peter's arrest… Nicola and I will speak though.

"And we'll do that once she hopefully returns back to Holyrood. And I think that would be the right place to do that.

"Of course, I want to check in with her and her welfare. But what will be really abundantly clear to both Nicola and of course from my perspective, is she and I, the one thing we cannot talk about is the police investigation.

Read more: Nicola Sturgeon says last few days have been 'obviously difficult' after her husband's arrest in SNP finance probe

"We simply can't do that. But of course, I will check in on her welfare, I'm sure it has been a difficult period for her."

Ms Sturgeon did appear at Holyrood on Tuesday, telling reporters: "What I will say up front is that I'm not going to go into any detail that impinges on a live police investigation, there are many questions that I would want to be able to answer and in the fullness of time I hope I will answer, but it would be wrong and inappropriate for me to go into any detail of what the police are currently investigating.

"I understand the view that some people might have, that I knew this was all about to unfold and that's why I walked away.

"Nothing could be further from the truth. I could not have anticipated in my worst nightmares what would have unfolded over the past few weeks."

Mr Yousaf refused to permit a refund of the £600,000 because those who gave the party money "want to advance the cause of independence".

And he said he was wary of saying too much about the police probe, which saw Ms Sturgeon and Mr Murrell's house searched by officers.

"Well, first of all the £600,000 is part of the police investigation, hence why it'd be very dangerous for me to comment on it," he told Andrew.

"But it's very much a focus as it's been made public, by the police. So that is the focus of the police investigation. Look, money that is raised from the membership by the party, we're going to spend that in advancing the cause of independence referendum…

"We're not reimbursing people for the donations that they have made.

"People make donations to the party because they want to advance the cause of independence. Every pound and penny that we spend as a party will be on advancing the cause of independence."

Mr Yousaf, who was widely seen as the continuity candidate during the SNP leadership elections, wants to build back momentum that appears to be dipping in the wake of the police investigation.

Ms Sturgeon and Mr Murrell have both quit their crucial roles in the SNP
Ms Sturgeon and Mr Murrell have both quit their crucial roles in the SNP. Picture: Alamy

Ms Sturgeon, often portrayed as a capable operator and a political heavyweight, has left him with a Herculean task to restore credibility to a party that has long governed Scotland.

She had once hoped to fight the next general election as a "de facto" independence referendum, hoping to argue that if they again won huge support at Westminster they could consider that approval for breaking up the UK.

But Mr Yousaf instead told Mr Marr he would be willing to work with a Labour government to see the Tories kicked out of office, after demanding the power for a second referendum on independence.

"We know that if Labour has a majority, then they ignore Scotland. They did that last time they were in power; they will do it again," he claimed.

"So, in order to get Scotland's voice heard in Westminster, you have to vote for as many SNP MPs.

"And if there is a hung Parliament, then of course, we will co-operate, I'll say that unequivocally. We'll co-operate with anybody that is a progressive political party that's looking to see the back of the Tories, but there will be a price."

His comments come just days after the SNP's treasurer resigned after being released by police.

Colin Beattie, who sits in the Scottish Parliament, said it was a personally difficult decision but essential for "the SNP’s governance and transparency".

He was released without charge pending an investigation.