- Police Scotland say questioning the man
- Peter Morell, the former CEO of SNP, resigned last month
- The police van is seen outside the sturgeon house
- SNP leader Yusuf says the news is ‘difficult’
GLASGOW (Reuters) – The husband of former Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon has been arrested as part of an investigation into the financing of the ruling pro-independence Scottish National Party.
Police Scotland said on Wednesday that a 58-year-old man had been “arrested as a suspect” and that its officers were carrying out searches at a number of addresses linked to the investigation.
Peter Morrell, 58, who resigned as chief executive of the SNP last month, was taken into police custody on Wednesday morning, according to a party official who asked not to be named.
Police said they were conducting searches at a number of addresses as part of the investigation. A police car with a police sign was parked outside the couple’s home in Glasgow, which had been sealed off with blue and white police tape. A blue tent has also been set up outside.
“The man is in custody and is being questioned by Police Detectives Scotland,” the force said.
A police investigation is looking into what happened to more than £600,000 ($750,000) collected by Scottish independence activists in 2017, which was meant to be fenced in but may have been used for other purposes.
The party’s accounts published by the Election Commission, which is the independent monitoring body, showed that at the end of 2018 the party had about 411,000 pounds in cash or its equivalent.
The SNP said it would not be appropriate to comment on any direct police investigation but was cooperating with the investigation.
The arrest comes after a few bruises for the Scottish National Party, which has dominated Scottish politics for most of the past two decades.
Hamza Yusuf won a contest just over a week ago to replace Sturgeon as SNP leader and first minister in Scotland, which exposed deep divisions within the party and he is now struggling to restore the party’s credibility.
Speaking to reporters after the news broke, Youssef described the arrest as “a difficult day for the party” and said he wanted to reassure SNP members about issues of transparency and party funding.
“The news this morning is tough, tough,” he said.
Morrell, who ran the SNP for more than two decades and has been married to Sturgeon since 2010, resigned last month after accepting blame for misleading the public about the party’s declining membership.
Sturgeon also resigned as leader of Scotland’s semi-autonomous government last month after eight years in power, saying it had become too divided to lead the nation towards independence.
In a 2014 referendum, the Scots refused to end the more than 300-year-old union with England by 55% to 45%. Britain’s vote to leave the European Union two years later when a majority of Scots wanted to stay, and Scotland’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has led to fresh support for independence. However, the Conservative government in Westminster refuses to allow a new referendum.
Opinion polls show support for the SNP and Scottish Independence has fallen since Sturgeon’s departure.
Police Scotland said a report would be sent to the Crown and Attorney-General’s Offices, Scotland’s public prosecutors.
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Additional reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Additional reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Michael Holden, Connor Humphreys and Angus McSwan
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