Scottish National Party chief executive quits after membership numbers dispute

Photo: Andy Buchanan/POOL/Getty Images

Peter Murrell, the chief executive of the Scottish National Party (SNP), resigned on Saturday following a dispute over the number of SNP members. Murrell accepted responsibility for misleading the public on the number of members and said that there was no intent to deceive.

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Murrell has been the head of the party administration since 1999 and is the husband of the outgoing SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon. Sturgeon announced in February that she would step down after eight years as Scotland's first minister, triggering an SNP leadership contest that concluded on March 27.

Murrell initially intended to remain in his position until the leadership contest was over. However, he faced increasing pressure to step down after Murray Foote, the party's head of communications, resigned on Friday.

Foote had previously disputed a media report that party membership had fallen sharply since 2021, but the SNP issued updated figures on Thursday showing a decline from 103,884 to 72,186 members.

Foote stated in his resignation statement on Friday that he had received inaccurate information on membership numbers from the party's head office. After Murrell's resignation, Michael Russell, the party's president, assumed the role of chief executive on an interim basis. The SNP said that these changes would not affect the ongoing leadership contest.

However, the SNP's political opponents raised concerns about the party's ability to govern Scotland. The Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh has powers over health, education, the justice system, and some tax policy. Craig Hoy, the chair of the Scottish Conservatives, said that the SNP's focus on internal disputes was ignoring the public's real priorities.

In conclusion, Murrell's resignation as SNP chief executive is a significant development for the party as it heads into a leadership contest. The controversy over membership numbers and the resulting resignations have raised questions about the SNP's transparency and fitness to govern Scotland.

It remains to be seen how this will affect the party's prospects in the upcoming leadership contest and beyond.