Nicola Sturgeon pulls out of climate event as husband released on bail without charge amid probe over party finances

6 April 2023, 09:51 | Updated: 6 April 2023, 09:59

Police at the scene at Nicola Sturgeon's home today
Police at the scene at Nicola Sturgeon's home today. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Ex SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has been forced to pull out of a climate change event after her husband’s arrest.

Ms Sturgeon was due to speak at A Climate of Change, in Edinburgh this evening but decided not to take part amid the fallout over her husband’s arrest amid a probe into the party’s financial affairs.

A spokesman said: “In order to keep the focus of this event on the critical issue of the climate emergency… Nicola Sturgeon has made the decision not to attend this evening.”

Police remain outside the home she shares with husband Peter Murrell after the former SNP chief executive was arrested and then released without charge.

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Police at the scene of Nicola Sturgeon's home yesterday
Police at the scene of Nicola Sturgeon's home yesterday. Picture: Alamy

The 58-year-old was arrested on Wednesday morning in connection with a long-running Police Scotland investigation into the spending of about £600,000 which was earmarked for Scottish independence campaigning.

He was released from custody the same evening "pending further investigation".

Three police vans were parked outside the couple's Glasgow home on Thursday morning, with two uniformed officers stationed outside.

Police searching the couple's back garden yesterday
Police searching the couple's back garden yesterday. Picture: Alamy

A large blue tent remains in place in the front garden of the property, which has been screened off with blue police screens.

The house and garden remain cordoned off with police tape.

Ms Sturgeon cancelled a planned appearance at a climate change event in Edinburgh on Thursday evening, with her spokesperson saying she wanted to "keep the focus of the event on the critical issue of the climate emergency".

Peter Murrell, Nicola Sturgeon's husband, was arrested and then released without charge
Peter Murrell, Nicola Sturgeon's husband, was arrested and then released without charge. Picture: Alamy

The former first minister said through a spokesperson that she would "fully co-operate if required" with police following her husband's arrest.

Ms Sturgeon, who unexpectedly announced her resignation as first minister on February 15, stressed that she had "no prior knowledge of Police Scotland's action or intentions" in the statement released on Wednesday evening.

Mr Murrell stepped down as the SNP's chief executive last month following a controversy about misleading information being given to journalists over the party's membership numbers.

Police examine a set of pruning shears in the couple's back garden
Police examine a set of pruning shears in the couple's back garden. Picture: Alamy

On Wednesday, a Police Scotland spokesperson said: "A 58-year-old man who was arrested as a suspect earlier today in connection with the ongoing investigation into the funding and finances of the Scottish National Party, has been released without charge pending further investigation.

"The man was questioned by Police Scotland detectives after he was arrested at 7.45am. He was released from custody at 6.57pm.

"Officers also carried out searches today at a number of addresses as part of the investigation.

"A report will be sent to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

"The matter remains active for the purposes of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 and the public are therefore advised to exercise caution if discussing it on social media.

"As the investigation is ongoing we are unable to comment further."

It comes after a blue tent was set up in the front garden of the Glasgow house belonging to Ms Sturgeon and Mr Murrell early on Wednesday morning, with police taping the area off.

First Minister Humza Yousaf, who took over from Ms Sturgeon last week, said the arrest marked a "difficult day" for the party.

He told broadcasters on Wednesday: "My reaction, as you'd imagine, much like anybody involved in the SNP, is that this is a difficulty for the party.

"But, again, I'd just reiterate and emphasise it's so important for me not to comment on a live police investigation and be seen to prejudice that in any way, shape or form."

He added: "I think there'll be concern from the public but, again, there is a live police investigation under way and we will wait to see what comes at the conclusion of that police investigation."

When Ms Sturgeon announced her resignation in February, she said it was not due to short-term pressures but rather that she knew in her "head and heart" it was the right time to go.

During her Bute House press conference, she was asked if she expected to be interviewed in relation to the investigation into the party's finances and said she did not.

Amid the SNP leadership contest to pick her successor, Mr Murrell announced he was stepping down from the role he had held for more than 20 years.

It came during a row over the party's membership numbers which had dropped by about 30,000 in the last year, something the party had previously denied.

In December, it emerged that Mr Murrell had loaned the SNP £100,000 in June 2021, but the party said this was to help with a "cash flow" issue after the election that year.

Ms Sturgeon said at the time: "The resources that he lent the party were resources that belonged to him."

Following the announcement Ms Sturgeon will no longer be attending the Climate of Change event in Edinburgh, her spokesperson said: "In order to keep the focus of this event on the critical issue of the climate emergency and Ambassador Patricia Espinosa's contribution, Nicola Sturgeon has made the decision not to participate this evening.

"She is grateful to the festival and Ambassador Espinosa for their understanding, and to Mairi McAllan for taking her place."

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