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Scotland: Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon arrested then released in police corruption probe

Former Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon
Former Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Andrew Naughtie
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Police Scotland are investigating allegations that party funds were misused during former first minister's tenure as party leader

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Scotland's former first minister Nicola Sturgeon was arrested by police on Sunday morning, as they continue investigating allegations of mishandling of party funds.

Sturgeon, who stepped down as leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and of the Scottish government in February this year, was taken into custody for questioning, but released more than seven hours later without charge. 

Her arrest follows that of her husband, former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, who was taken in by police shortly after Sturgeon was replaced as first minister by Humza Yousaf. Murrell's arrest also saw police execute a full search of the couple's home.

In a statement released by Sturgeon on social media following her release from custody on Sunday evening, the former first minister said she was shocked and deeply distressed, and  maintained her innocence. 

"I would never do anything to harm the SNP or the country," Sturgeon wrote. 

"Innocence is not just a presumption I am entitled to in law. I know beyond doubt that I am in fact innocent of any wrongdoing." 

The investigation is thought to centre on the use of party money for inappropriate purposes and a lack of transparency in the way it was spent during Sturgeon's tenure.

In particular, questions have long been raised about the use of more than €600,000 donated by members of the public to fund a mooted second Scottish independence campaign. Reports have said that less than €100,000 in donations remains, with little indication of how the money was spent.

After Murrell's arrest, police seized a campervan worth more than €100,000 that was parked at the home of his 92-year-old mother. Yousaf has confirmed that the vehicle was bought with party money, and that he only became aware of this after being elected leader.

The party's treasurer, Colin Beattie, stood down in April after being questioned by police himself. It also emerged that the party's auditors had resigned at the end of 2022; a new firm was eventually appointed last month, and the SNP narrowly managed to complete its formal accounting requirements before missing a crucial legal deadline.

ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP
Police car outside Nicola Sturgeon's home near Glasgow, Sunday 11 June 2023ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP

Sturgeon was a consistently popular figure in Scotland and across the UK until her sudden resignation in the spring. At the time, she said she was standing down largely because of the personal toll that serving as first minister for more than eight years had taken.

She has repeatedly denied that her resignation had anything to do with the developing police inquiry, whose progress was not publicly known at the time.

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