Seeing Sturgeon's home filled with cops felt like a work of fiction - but it's too soon to write her off

7 April 2023, 20:53

It's too soon to write of Sturgeon, says LBC's Scotland political editor
It's too soon to write of Sturgeon, says LBC's Scotland political editor. Picture: LBC
Gina Davidson

By Gina Davidson

Back in 2019, Alex Salmond was written out of SNP history.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

His achievements - becoming the party's first ever First Minister of Scotland, and securing an independence referendum, even if it was ultimately lost - were erased from the official website. You can imagine how well he took it.

It seems inconceivable that a similar fate could await his successor but these are extraordinary times in Scottish politics.

Nicola Sturgeon led her party for nearly nine years - longer than Salmond - and while she failed to secure the one thing she promised time and again to deliver, a second referendum, and indeed Scottish independence, she did win eight election victories and for many supporters became a figure of near adoration.

Read more: SNP auditors quit amid police investigation into Nicola Sturgeon's husband over party finances

But the events of the last week have been so remarkable, it feels as though anything is now possible.

To see the home of the former First Minister cordoned off and filled with police detectives, the garden swamped by a forensics tent and even the BBQ taken apart... it could have been an episode of CSI, so far-fetched did it seem. Yet it was very real. As was the search of SNP HQ and of course the arrest of her husband Peter Murrell. The former SNP chief executive was questioned for almost 12 hours before being released without charge.

That police investigation into SNP finances is continuing.

Police dismantle screens at Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell's house

It is not how anyone expected the immediate aftermath of Nicola Sturgeon's premiership to pan out. Her decision to go when she did was, admittedly, unexpected but it was widely expected she would spend some time on the backbenches before standing down as an MSP and taking up a job on a more global stage. Humza Yousaf, who replaced her in Bute House after a bruising leadership contest, has spoken of her as a global ambassador for independence.

Now though there are questions about whether she knew the police investigation into SNP finances and alleged irregularities was leading to the door of her home, resulting in her decision to quit.

Read more: Nicola Sturgeon claims 'no prior knowledge' of ex-SNP chief husband's arrest as he is released without charge

It is worth remembering that the final question to her on the day she announced her resignation was on the police inquiry - and she refused to answer. She was also asked previously by journalists if and when she knew about her husband's £107,000 loan to the party. Her response was to say "look, my husband is an individual and he will take decisions about what he does with resources that belong to him".

Asked when she knew he had given the money to the party, she said: "I can't recall exactly when I first knew that, but what he does with his resources is a matter for him."

The investigation continues
The investigation continues. Picture: Alamy

It is now all a matter for Police Scotland too. There will also no doubt be questions, no matter how perfunctory, for her as SNP leader about the party finances, although officers have not yet asked to speak to her directly.

Depending on what happens next, Nicola Sturgeon's tenure as FM could well end up blighted by the outcome of the ongoing investigation. The irony would be enormous. It was said during the Scottish Parliament's inquiry into her government's handling of the sexual harassment allegations against Alex Salmond that she should not be held responsible for the actions of a man - the man who for years had been her mentor. Similarly it would also be unfair for her to be held responsible for the actions of a man - the one she married - if he is found to have done anything wrong.

But this week’s events could still place her in a tricky situation for life after politics, after all those scenes at her house ... well in the words of the SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn "it’s hard to get the imagery of the tent out of your mind, isn’t it?”

Still, anyone who wrote Salmond off in 2019 was mistaken. He may not be the political colossus he once was, but his Alba party will be busy making hay out of the SNP's current trials and tribulations. Anyone writing Nicola Sturgeon off right now would be similarly wrong. If she has done one thing over the last eight years it has been to prove she is a fighter.

All now rests in the report going to the Crown Office.