‘I am innocent’ pleads Sturgeon following arrest
Former First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has spoken of her “deep distress’ after being arrested as part of the police investigation into the party’s finances.
Ms Sturgeon was held in custody for seven hours and later released without charge.
She insisted she was innocent and said she would be back in parliament soon, despite a call from a Tory MSP for Humza Yousaf, the current FM, to suspend her from the party
“I know beyond doubt that I am in fact innocent of any wrongdoing,” insisted Ms Sturgeon. “To find myself in the situation I did today when I am certain I have committed no offence is both a shock and deeply distressing’.”
The inquiry is focused on £600,000 of funds collected from members to support the independence campaign.
On 5 April police arrested her husband Peter Murrell, the former SNP chief executive, who was released without charge.
Ms Sturgeon was arrested at 10.09am today and released at 5.24pm. Media gathered outside the couple’s home, although her whereabouts are unclear.
Earlier, a Police Scotland spokesperson confirmed that “a 52-year-old woman has today, Sunday 11 June 2023, been arrested as a suspect in connection with the ongoing investigation into the funding and finances of the Scottish National Party.
“The woman is in custody and is being questioned by Police Scotland detectives. A report will be sent to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.
“The matter is 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.”
The couple’s home near Glasgow was searched as well as the party’s headquarters in Edinburgh and documents were removed.
Police later seized a luxury motorhome from outside the home of Mr Murrell’s mother in Dunfermline.
Two weeks later SNP treasurer Colin Beattie was arrested and released without charge.
In her statement tonight, Ms Sturgeon said =: ‘To find myself in the situation I did today when I am certain I have committed no offence is both a shock and deeply distressing.
“I know that this ongoing investigation is difficult for people, and I am grateful that so many continue to show faith in me and appreciate that I would never do anything to harm either the SNP or the country.
“Obviously, given the nature of this process, I cannot go into detail.
“However, I do wish to say this, and to do so in the strongest possible terms. Innocence is not just a presumption I am entitled to do in law. I know beyond any doubt that I am in fact innocent of any wrongdoing.
“To the many people who have sent messages of support over these past difficult weeks – including since today’s news broke – thank you for your kindness.
“Thank you also to my close circle of family and friends who are giving me much-needed strength at this time.
“Finally, while I will take a day of two to process this latest development, I intend to be back in Parliament soon where I will continue to represent my Glasgow Southside constituents to the very best of my ability.”
A spokesperson for Nicola Sturgeon said: “Nicola Sturgeon has today, Sunday 11 June, by arrangement with Police Scotland, attended an interview where she was to be arrested and questioned in relation to Operation Branchform. Nicola has consistently said she would co-operate with the investigation if asked and continues to do so.”
An SNP spokesperson said: “These issues are subject to a live police investigation. The SNP have been cooperating fully with this investigation and will continue to do so however it is not appropriate to publicly address any issues while that investigation is ongoing.”
Scottish Conservative Chairman Craig Hoy MSP, said: “Nicola Sturgeon and other senior SNP figures – including Humza Yousaf – must cooperate fully with this police investigation and commit to full transparency surrounding it.
“The SNP continue to be engulfed in murkiness and chaos. Humza Yousaf must now show some leadership and suspend his predecessor from the SNP.
“The SNP set that precedent when politicians such as Michelle Thomson and Natalie McGarry were under investigation and must do so again here.
“This extremely serious matter is continuing to escalate and the result is that the SNP are totally distracted at the worst possible time. This is the time they should be focused on the real priorities facing the people of Scotland, such as the cost-of-living crisis, fixing our NHS and strengthening our economy.”
Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland Ian Murray said: “This is a deeply concerning development and the Police Scotland investigation must be allowed to proceed without interference.
“For too long, a culture of secrecy and cover-up has been allowed to fester at the heart of the SNP.
“The same culture that leads to police tents in front gardens created the deeply dysfunctional government that is currently failing Scots.
“Humza Yousaf must urgently come clean on what he knows – the people of Scotland deserve answers.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Obviously we can’t comment on a live police investigation and justice must be allowed to take its course.
“It’s fair to say that today’s events will have huge ramifications both for the SNP and the future of Scottish politics.”
Ms Sturgeon becomes the second First Minister of Scotland to be arrested by police following her predecessor Alex Salmond’s arrest in 2019.