THE chief executive of the SNP Peter Murrell has today announced his resignation with immediate effect.

Mr Murrell was this morning told to step down from the role by the end of the day or face a no confidence motion from the party’s national executive committee, its ruling body.

The development comes a day after the party's head of communications Murray Foote stepped down after releasing inaccurate membership figures to journalists.

In a statement released just before midday Mr Murrell said he had not planned to announce his departure from the role until the end of the leadership contest, due to finish on March 27, but he had become a distraction to the campaign and the debate over Scotland's future.

He said responsibility lay with him over the response to media queries.

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“Responsibility for the SNP’s responses to media queries about our membership number lies with me as chief executive. While there was no intent to mislead, I accept that this has been the outcome. I have therefore decided to confirm my intention to step down as chief executive with immediate effect.

“I had not planned to confirm this decision until after the leadership election. However as my future has become a distraction from the campaign I have concluded that I should stand down now, so the party can focus fully on issues about Scotland’s future," he said.


Peter Murrell giving evidence to the Holyrood inquiry in February 2021 into how the Scottish Government investigated complaints against former First Minister Alex Salmond.  Photo PA.

Mr Murrell, who is married to Nicola Sturgeon, had come under pressure over the running of the leadership election which was accused of being too secretive and set up on timescale to favour Humza Yousaf, a loyalist to the outgoing First Minister.

But in his statement he said the race was being managed by the party's national secretary and that he had never had a role in it.

"The election contest is being run by the National Secretary and I have had no role in it at any point.

“I am very proud of what has been achieved in my time as chief executive and of the part I have played in securing the electoral success the party has enjoyed over almost two decades. Fourteen national election wins is testament to the skills of the dedicated and talented HQ team that I have been privileged to lead.

"They give their all to the party and the independence cause and I thank them for it.


“I have worked for independence all my life and will continue to do so, albeit in a different capacity, until it is achieved – and I do firmly believe that independence is now closer than ever."

Kate Forbes, Ash Regan and Mr Yousaf are vying to succeed Ms Sturgeon as party leader and First Minister with the contest becoming increasingly bitter.

Ms Regan was among the first to respond to Mr Murrell's resignation saying it was unacceptable for him to have been in the role when married to the party leader. She said the party was "more than capable of surviving".

"Eight years ago was the point where it was unacceptable to have the husband of the party leader as the CEO," she said.

"I am encouraged to see the democratic foundations of the party now asserting their rightful function. The SNP is more than capable of surviving this, as long as we stick true to our roots, and we uphold the values of our members.

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"Accountability, transparency, modernity and accessibility are our foundations. Every time we believe we have met our capacity to overcome a challenge, we can look up to our guiding lights, and know that our capacity may be limitless. I will lead a stronger SNP, together for Scotland."

Mr Yousaf said: "Peter Murrell has been an outstanding servant of the independence movement and the SNP.

"As I have said repeatedly throughout this campaign, he is the most electorally successful chief executive of any party in the UK and the SNP has been lucky to have him. Our election wins from 2007 to 2021 owe much to his political abilities.

"I agree with Peter that it is time for him to move on and make way for a new leader to appoint a new chief executive as passionate about the SNP and the cause of independence as he has been.

“With less than ten days to go in this leadership contest, it is vital we all focus on the policies and vision we have for the party, movement and country.

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"I am a son of the SNP, having first joined this party almost 20 years ago, and I am committed to its values built upon the collective strength of its membership. I am ready to take the campaign for independence to the next level.

"I am the only candidate offering that positive future for the party, and as we wish Peter well, I hope we can get back to the issues that matter in this campaign - building on our progressive values, making Scotland a fairer nation and winning our independence."

Mr Murrell had come under increased pressure to resign after the SNP’s head of communications at Holyrood Murray Foote quit yesterday after being he was given false information by party bosses about falling membership numbers.

Mr Foote, the 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”.


Murray Foote, former editor of the Daily Record, resigned on Friday as the SNP's head of communictations in Holyrood.

Two of the three leadership hopefuls had criticised Mr Murrell in recent weeks. Ms Regan suggested there was a “conflict of interest” in having him oversee the contest.

“Effectively he’s running the contest to replace his wife. That would be like Carrie [Johnson] counting the votes for Boris’s successor, and I think many people would think that would be fairly unusual. I think there is a conflict of interest here," she said.

Earlier this week, both she and Ms Forbes expressed fears over the integrity of the ballot and called for an independent observer to oversee the election.

Mr Yousaf’s support for the beleaguered party boss had been lukewarm at best.

At a recent campaign stop, the health secretary said he regarded Mr Murrell as "an election winner.”

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But he added: "One of the first things I will do if I was elected leader of the SNP is speak to Peter and see what his plans are for the future."

Alex Neil, the former SNP health secretary, who supports Ms Forbes's bid to become SNP leader and First Minister said that having a married couple in the two most powerful positions in the party had “brought avoidable problems we could well have done without”.

Under pressure from all three candidates, the SNP revealed on Thursday that membership now stood at 72,000, down from almost 104,000 in 2021, the last time the figures had been made publicly available.

The party’s press office called reports published last month in the Sunday Mail that the membership had fallen by about 30,000 as being “not just flat wrong . . . wrong by about 30,000”. Mr Foote, a former editor in chief of the Sunday Mail, amplified the denial on Twitter at the time, calling the report “drivel”. The newspaper’s report proved to be accurate.

Mr Foote tweeted on Friday: “Acting in good faith and as a courtesy to colleagues at party HQ, I issued agreed party responses to media inquiries 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.”

In addition to the turmoil surrounding the leadership election, the party is also under investigation by the police over a potential fraud involving £600,000 raised by it for an independence campaign.

As chief executive of the party Mr Murrell tended to stay in the background of the SNP operation.

However, he was thrown into the public limelight two years ago when he gave evidence to MSPs into their inquiry into how the Scottish Government conducted an inquiry into complaints about former First Minister Alex Salmond.