Peter Murrell resigns as SNP chief executive amid membership number controversy

Nicola Sturgeon’s husband quits on threats of a vote of no-confidence in him

Peter Murrell, the husband of departing party leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, has resigned as the SNP's chief executive. PA
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Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell, has resigned as the Scottish National Party's (SNP) chief executive, effective immediately, amid reports that members of the party's National Executive Committee threatened a vote of no-confidence.

Mr Murrell, who has been the party’s chief executive since 1999, issued a statement saying “responsibility for the SNP’s responses to media queries about our membership number lies with me as chief executive.

“While there was no intent to mislead, I accept that this has been the outcome. I have, therefore, decided to confirm my intention to step down as chief executive with immediate effect”.

Mr Murrell's resignation comes after the departure of the SNP's media chief, Murray Foote, who left on Friday in a dispute over the party’s membership numbers.

It emerged this week that the party had lost 30,000 members in just over a year, and, after speaking to the party's headquarters, Mr Foote said that he had issued responses to the media that raised “serious issues” and later decided there was a “serious impediment” to his role.

Earlier this month, the party revealed that its membership as of February 15 this year was 72,186, down from 103,884 in 2021, confirming a story in the Sunday Mail in February.

On Saturday, a senior member of the NEC was quoted by the Herald newspaper saying, “We have the numbers. There’s not a hope in hell that Peter can survive a no-confidence motion”.

Ms Sturgeon said Mr Murrell was “right” to announce his immediate resignation as chief executive of the party she leads.

She said he had “obviously taken responsibility for the recent issue with membership”.

“He had intended to step down when there was a new leader, but I think he was right to make that announcement today,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“Peter has been a key part of the electoral success we have achieved in recent years, and I know there will be a recognition of that across the party.”

This week, two of the candidates to replace Ms Sturgeon as party leader and Scottish First Minister — Kate Forbes and Ash Regan — raised concerns about the integrity of the election.

However, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, widely viewed as the favourite for the leadership among the party hierarchy, dismissed these as “baseless smears”.

Mr Yousaf praised Mr Murrell as “an outstanding servant of the independence movement”.

“I agree with Peter that it is time for him to move on and make way for a new leader to appoint a new chief executive as passionate about the SNP and the cause of independence as he has been,” he said.

Meanwhile, the SNP's political opponents have highlighted that the party's finances are still being investigated.

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy MSP said: “Peter Murrell’s resignation is long overdue — but there remain serious questions for him to answer, not least over the missing £600,000 from party accounts”.

Mr Murrell resigned less than 10 days before a shortened SNP leadership contest concludes

Updated: March 18, 2023, 3:41 PM