THE SNP’s head of communications at Holyrood has quit after being fed false information by party bosses about falling membership numbers. 

Murray Foote’s departure adds to the pressure on SNP chief executive Peter Murrell to apologise over the scandal - and possibly resign himself.

In an explosive statement, Mr Foote, a respected former editor of the Daily Record who joined the SNP operation three years ago, said he was resigning after being let down by party HQ while “acting in good faith”. 

He said information he relayed on behalf of SNP HQ had proven to have “serious issues” and had “created a serious impediment to my role”.

Last month, he issued “agreed party responses” to the media trashing a newspaper report that the party had suffered a loss of 30,000 members.

This week, the party admitted its membership was indeed more than 30,000 below its previously published figure.

It led to calls for Mr Murrell to apologise to the journalist whose accurate report had been discredited, and gravely undermined Mr Foote’s ability to command trust among journalists.

In a statement tonight, Mr Foote said: “Acting in good faith and as a courtesy to colleagues at party HQ, I issued agreed party responses to media enquiries regarding membership. It has subsequently become apparent there are serious issues with these responses.

“Consequently, I concluded this created a serious impediment to my role and I resigned my position with the SNP Group at Holyrood."

The party said it was disappointed and saddened by Mr Foote's departure.

Pete Wishart, the SNP's longest serving MP, said there now a need for "the broadest possible inquiry" into the self-inflicted "mess".

He tweeted: "You don’t get more ‘loyal’ than me but when this leadership contest is concluded we need the broadest possible inquiry into some of the issues around the mess that has been so unnecessarily self inflicted."

Mr Murrell, who is married to Nicola Sturgeon, has run SNP HQ for 20 years.

On 12 February, the Sunday Mail’s John Ferguson reported up to 30,000 SNP members had quit over controversial gender reforms and a lack of progress on independence.

At the time, the most up-to-date figure for SNP members was 103,883, the number at 31 December 2021 given in the party’s annual accounts.

The Sunday Mail story led to the SNP flatly denying a 30,000 drop.

A party spokesperson said at the time: “The 30,000 figure that was reported is not just flat wrong, it’s wrong by about 30,000. 

“As the SNP clearly stated when asked, fewer than 300 members have left the party over the period and they have been replaced by the same number of new members. 

“This story is both malicious and wholly inaccurate. Fortunately, few people are gullible enough to believe it.”

Mr Foote, who as Daily Record editor helped create the Unionist Vow on the eve of the 2014 referendum, also rubbished the story on Twitter, calling it “drivel” and repeating the official denial.

However, under pressure to be more transparent about who will vote in its leadership contest, on Thursday the SNP revealed its membership was 72,186, or just over 30,000 down on the figure reported in its accounts.

Tory MSP Russell Findlay, a former journalist, today wrote to Mr Murrell urging him to act against those who attacked the reporter and misled the public about membership numbers.

He said the SNP spin machine had resorted to "barefaced lies" and treated the public with "contempt". 

After Mr Foote's resignation, he said: "Murray Foote was giving out information he had been told, which was false. He didn’t lie. The SNP lied.

“The problem is not a press officer. The problem is the rotten SNP leadership who deliberately lied to the press and public.

“We wish our best to Mr Foote, who was clearly told false information and is the fall guy for the SNP hierarchy.”

An SNP spokesperson said: "Murray has been an outstanding head of press for the Holyrood Group and we thank him for his service.

"He has acted entirely in good faith throughout.

"The Party was asked a specific question about loss of members as a direct result of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill and Indyref2.

"The answer given was intended to make clear that these two reasons had not been the cause of significant numbers of members leaving.

"The membership figure is normally produced annually and is not produced in response to individual media queries, including in this instance.

"In retrospect, however, we should not have relied on an understanding of people's reasons for leaving as the basis of the information given to Murray and, thereafter, the media.

"A new, modernised membership system is currently  being developed for the party."