Nicola Sturgeon, the former First Minister of Scotland, has been arrested as part of the ongoing investigation into the financial affairs of the Scottish National Party (SNP).
Authorities confirmed on Sunday that a 52-year-old woman, identified as Nicola Sturgeon, was taken into custody as a suspect and is currently being interrogated by detectives.
This development follows the earlier arrest and subsequent release of Peter Murrell, Sturgeon’s husband and former SNP chief executive, in April.
A spokesperson for Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that she willingly attended a scheduled police interview on Sunday. Subsequently, she was arrested and questioned by investigators who have been examining the whereabouts of over £600,000 in donations given to the SNP by pro-independence activists over the past two years.
The spokesperson stated, “Nicola Sturgeon, in accordance with arrangements made with Police Scotland, voluntarily attended an interview today, Sunday 11 June, where she was arrested and questioned in relation to Operation Branchform. Nicola has consistently expressed her willingness to cooperate with the investigation if called upon to do so, and she continues to uphold that commitment.”
On April 5, officers conducted searches at Nicola Sturgeon’s residence and the SNP headquarters in Edinburgh. Peter Murrell was arrested during the operation but later released without charges, pending further investigation.
Police also seized a luxury motorhome worth approximately £110,000 from outside Peter Murrell’s mother’s home in Dunfermline.
Nearly two weeks later, Colin Beattie, the SNP treasurer, was also arrested but subsequently released without charges, as further inquiries were conducted. Following these events, Mr. Beattie resigned from his position as party treasurer.
Nicola Sturgeon, Peter Murrell, and Colin Beattie were the three signatories on the SNP’s accounts. The arrest of the former First Minister had been widely anticipated, although the specific timing was unknown.
Under the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016, a suspect can be released by the police for further investigation and potentially re-arrested at a later date.
A spokesperson for the SNP declined to comment on Nicola Sturgeon’s arrest, stating that these matters are currently part of an active police investigation.
Nicola Sturgeon served as Scotland’s First Minister for more than eight years, succeeding Alex Salmond following the independence referendum in 2014. She announced on February 15 that she would step down as both SNP leader and First Minister once a successor was elected. Humza Yousaf emerged as the winner of the leadership contest.
Sturgeon maintained that her decision to step down was based on her personal conviction that it was the right time to go and denied any influence from the ongoing police investigation.
She holds the distinction of being Scotland’s longest-serving First Minister and the first woman to hold the position.
Craig Hoy, the chairman of the Scottish Conservatives, criticized the SNP, describing the party as “enveloped in obscurity and disorder.” He called on Humza Yousaf to suspend his predecessor from the party.
Ian Murray, Labour’s shadow Scottish Secretary, expressed deep concern over the developments and stressed the importance of allowing the police inquiry to proceed without any interference.
The investigation, codenamed Operation Branchform, was launched by Police Scotland two years ago after complaints were lodged regarding the handling of £666,954 in donations intended for a future independence referendum campaign.
The party’s financial statements indicated that it held just under £97,000 in its bank accounts at the end of 2019, with total net assets of approximately £272,000.