Scottish National Party chief resigns for misleading public about membership numbers

The chief executive of Scotland’s largest political party has resigned after misleading the media and the public about declining party membership.

Peter Murrell said on Saturday that he would resign as chief executive of the Scottish National Party (SNP) with immediate effect.

Murrell, former SNP leader and husband of Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon, has been the party’s chief executive for more than two decades.

On March 16, SNP was forced to confirm media claims it had previously denied, that it had lost 30,000 members in just over a year.

According to the party’s own statistics, it had 72,186 members as of 15 February 2023, down from 103,884 in 2021.

The SNP’s media chief, Murray Foote, has since resigned, citing “serious problems” with the initial denials issued on behalf of his party.

‘No intent to mislead’

Murrell said he took responsibility for the misleading remarks, but insisted he didn’t mean to mislead the public.

In a statement on Saturday, he said:

“While I had no intention of misleading, I accept that this was the result.

“I did not intend to confirm this decision until after the leadership election. However, as my future is getting in the way of the election campaign, I would like to ensure that the party can concentrate fully on matters concerning the future of Scotland. I concluded that I should resign now.”

Murrell said he was “extremely proud” of the role he had played in “ensuring the electoral success that the party has enjoyed for almost two decades” and said he would continue his efforts towards Scottish independence. swore ever. “

“Act with integrity”

The Sunday Mail reported last month that SNP has lost 30,000 members since 2021.

Murray Foote, the SNP’s communications director, described the allegations as “nonsense” and the party said in another National article that “not only are the reported numbers completely wrong, but about 30,000. wrong,” he said.

However, the party was later forced to confirm the Sunday Mail article, and Foote subsequently resigned on March 17.

“Acting in good faith and as a courtesy to my colleagues at party headquarters, I have provided a concurring party response to media inquiries regarding membership,” he said in a statement.

“It became apparent to me that there were serious problems with these responses. As a result, I concluded that this would seriously interfere with my role and resigned from my position with Holyrood’s SNP group. ”

Scottish Conservative MP Russell Findlay said Foote was being used as a “corrupt”.

“The problem is not the press secretary. The problem is the corrupt SNP leadership who deliberately lied to the press and the public,” he said.

But SNP denied that the party knowingly lied.

A party spokesman said: The answers given were intended to clarify that these two reasons are not the cause of the withdrawal of a significant number of members. ”

“However, in retrospect, we should not have relied on understanding people’s reasons for leaving as the basis for the information provided to the media,” he said.

“continuation doesn’t cut it”

Health Minister Humza Yousaf, who is endorsed by many Sturgeon supporters as SNP leader and successor, hailed the outgoing chief executive as an “outstanding servant of the independence movement”.

But critics of Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP, both inside and outside the party, have long questioned whether it’s appropriate to have the same family hold the roles of both chief executive and party leader.

Earlier Saturday, the Herald reported that rebel members of the SNP’s National Executive Committee (NEC) had asked Murrell to set a date for his departure by the end of the day.

Ash Regan, one of the candidates trying to replace Sturgeon as party leader, commented on Twitter:

Another leadership candidate, Kate Forbes, has pledged to reform the party, promising an independent audit of party membership and finances.

In an open letter to SNP members on Saturday, she said: ”

“tear up”

Meanwhile, political opponents of the SNP stressed that the party’s finances were still under investigation.

Scottish Conservative Party Chairman Craig Hoy said: “Peter Murrell’s resignation has been long overdue, but there remain serious questions for him to answer.

Scottish Labor Party deputy leader Jackie Bailey said: “This recent resignation of a top SNP figure shows that the wheels have fallen off the SNP wagon.

“At a time when Scotland most needed responsible governance, the SNP turned inward and began to divide.”

PA Media contributed to this report.