HUMZA Yousaf has admitted thinking Nicola Sturgeon resigned because of the police investigation into the SNP’s finances.

The First Minister said “everybody had that thought” after Ms Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell, the former SNP chief executive, was arrested six weeks after she had quit. 

Officers investigating if the party misspent £660,000 raised specifically on Indyref2 also seized a £110,000 motorhome from outside the house of Mr Murrell’s mother. 

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However Mr Yousaf said he now believed Ms Sturgeon’s later assurances that her exit was unconnected to the two-year police case, known as Operation Branchform.

“We go back a long, long time and I have not known Nicola to be dishonest or untruthful. I take her at face value,” he said.

The First Minister was speaking at the Edinburgh Fringe for a recording of the Political Party podcast with comedian Matt Forde at the Gilded Balloon Teviot.

Ms Sturgeon resigned on February 15 after more than eight years as FM, admitting she had become too divisive to advance independence or win greater support for the SNP.

Mr Yousaf became SNP leader and First Minister at the end of March, and Mr Murrell was arrested and SNP HQ raided on April 5.

SNP treasurer Colin Beattie was arrested on April 18 and Ms Sturgeon arrested on June 11. All three were released without charge after being questioned by detectives.

Besides the bad publicity over the arrests, Mr Yousaf also inherited a financial mess at the SNP after belatedly learning the party’s auditors had quit last September.

Asked how he felt about becoming leader without knowing what was waiting for him, Mr Yousaf said: “If I had known then what was going to transpire I still would have gone for First Minister of Scotland, because it is the greatest honour. 

“Why would you not go for it? To lead your country, to lead a party that I had been a member of for 19 years. I still would have gone for it.

“I think in terms of the police investigation… I don’t believe that Nicola knew what people are accusing her of knowing.”

He said Ms Sturgeon phoned him at 9.45pm on February 14th to tell him that she was resigning. 

“I remember her words. She said, You’re not going to like what I’ve got to say.

"I knew what was coming. I said, Don’t do it, you have no reason to do it.

“I won’t lie to you, there was a bit of choice language.

I said I thought it was the wrong decision. I said to her I was going to phone [deputy FM] John Swinney so I could tell on her.

“Then she really got to me when she said, Humza, you’ve no idea what it’s like.

"I can’t even go for a coffee with a friend without police officers - doing their job - sitting at the table next to me. That’s no way to live a life for eight years, and I’m done.

“And I remember thinking, You know what, I can’t really argue about it. 

“I still phoned John, right enough. I said, Can you change her mind? He was like, Ain’t happening, she’s made up her mind.”

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Mr Forde said: “But then when the arrests happened and things like that and the motorhome, did part of you think, Well actually that’s why you’ve stepped down, it’s not because you can’t go for a coffee.”

Mr Yousaf replied: “I think everybody had that thought. 

"I genuinely believe Nicola when she says - we’ve not talked about the police investigation, I’m going by her public commentary - when she has said, Look I did not know what was going to happen and it’s the stuff of absolute nightmares for her.

"She’s used the word traumatic a few times and I absolutely believe her.

“I’ve known Nicola for well over 15 years.

“We go back a long, long time and I have not known Nicola to be dishonest or untruthful.

"She’s always been absolutely straight in that regard. I take her at face value.”

Mr Yousaf said he also planned to invite Sir Keir Starmer to meet him to talk about his plans for greater devolution under a Labour government at Westminster.

The First Minister said it was clear Rishi Sunak would be ousted from No10, but whether  the Labour leader had a majority or ran a minority government was still up in the air.