THE SNP has refused to say if Peter Murrell's membership has been suspended, as questions mount over party cash being used to pay his legal fees. 

The former chief executive - who is married to Nicola Sturgeon - was arrested on Wednesday as part of the police probe into concerns over more than £660,000 worth of donations.

He was released without charge after nearly 12 hours of questioning, pending further investigations. 

READ MORE: Sturgeon told SNP NEC party's finances were 'absolutely fine'

According to reports, the SNP has hired leading lawyer Stuart Munro, whose areas of expertise include “white collar crime and associated litigation” and “allegations of financial crime”.

He successfully represented the former administrator of Rangers Football Club in a major fraud prosecution.  

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Meanwhile, in another day of dramatic developments in Police Scotland’s probe of the SNP finances, reports emerged that officers reportedly seized a luxury motorhome from outside the Fife house of Mr Murrell’s mother. 

The £110,000 campervan was taken on Wednesday morning, at around the same time as Mr Murrell and Ms Sturgeon's home was being searched. 

The Herald:

There were also new questions for the former first minister too. Leaked recordings of an NEC meeting held a month after the police launched their investigation reveal she told the members of the party’s ruling body that the finances were “absolutely fine” and that they did not need to speak about them. 

One veteran has MP suggested the row should result in the whole contest being rerun. 

READ MORE: SNP MP: 'Very strong ­argument for rerunning the leadership contest'

On the legal fees, Humza Yousaf previously told journalists that the party may have “obligations” to pay.

"I would need to look at the detail of that,” he said on Thursday. “Of course, we have the party lawyer, as you'd imagine, for party staff, but I have to look at the detail around whether we are paying for Peter's legal fees or not."

He said Mr Murrell was not a staff member any longer, "but there may be obligations around that", adding: "But that's an issue that I am looking at and exploring."

Asked if Mr Murrell was still a member, the First Minister said he said: “In terms of Peter’s membership status, I would have to check if Peter is still a member. 

“Let's remember our justice system works on the premise quite rightly that people are innocent until proven guilty. 

“Peter has, of course, been questioned under caution. That's not an insignificant point. But of course, as you know as well as I do, he was released without charge. 

“There may be developments in that case and I'll watch the police investigation as much as you will and I will do that closely.”

The Herald asked the SNP yesterday for clarity on Mr Murrell’s membership, but the party did not respond. 

One source who has been through the disciplinary process said the uncertainty over Mr Murrell’s membership was surprising.  “They’re usually quite quick to suspend people the second an allegation or complaint is made.”

The SNP’s rules state that National Secretary, Lorna Finn, can “suspend a member from exercising any or all rights of Membership while allegations [of a code of conduct breach] are being investigated and considered by the Party.”

One newspaper yesterday suggested some MSPs and MPs were considering withholding their monthly tithe to the party in protest at the prospect of paying for Mr Murrell’s lawyer. 

An insider told the Sunday Post: “The party sub is meant to support campaigning but the questions over the use of money at SNP HQ mean the MSPs are wondering how their cash is being spent – especially as there is now talk of the party spending a fortune on expensive ‘white collar crime’ lawyers and possibly paying Peter’s legal fees.

“Veteran MSPs who fought all their lives for independence are aghast, with some now talking about with-holding the money from HQ – instead diverting it to their branches, where it can be spent on actual campaigning.”

READ MORE: SNP finance probe: Police Scotland seize high end campervan

Meanwhile, The Sunday Mail says that in August 2021, a month after police launched a probe into the party's finances, Ms Sturgeon told the party’s NEC: “We don’t need to talk about the finances. The finances are absolutely fine.”

Questions were initially raised after the money after SNP accounts in 2019, showed £97,000 in the bank and total assets of about £272,000, despite hundreds of thousands being raised through online fundraisers. 

The meeting also came three months after MP Douglas Chapman quit as treasurer saying he “had not received the support or financial information required to carry out the fiduciary duties”.

A month after that resignation, Mr Murrell loaned the party more than £107,620, though it was not declared to the Electoral Commission until August 2022, more than a year late.

The Herald:

The remarks from Ms Sturgeon came as the NEC was discussing a report commissioned by deputy leader Keith Brown after the financial concerns were first raised. 

In the final paragraph, he said transparency could be increased if the party prepared a “monthly written summary of income and expenditure, confirmed via the bank account.”

A party source told the paper: “[Ms Sturgeon told the meeting that there was nothing wrong with the accounts and that people should stop talking about it because it was undermining the party.

"It’s fair to say she was pretty raging about it. She went on at some length telling everyone that everything was absolutely fine and that it shouldn’t be discussed.”

Unusually, the meeting, which took place on Zoom, was recorded.

Another attendee said: “The recommendations made were supposed to be discussed by the NEC and the reason for the recording was to allow SNP HQ staff to write up the discussion, to make it easier to see what we had said about every point in the report and then decide what to put forward for approval.”

They said Mr Brown’s recommendations were shelved: “When the next NEC meeting took place two months later, we were told there hadn’t been enough time to review the recording, so the recommendations wouldn’t be going forward.”

Earlier reports over the weekend claimed discussion was "blocked" by Mr Murell and the party’s business convenor, Kirsten Oswald, who was appointed to the post by Ms Sturgeon.

A source told the Times: “The main blockers to change were people in the non-elected positions like Peter Murrell and Kirsten Oswald, 

“So the elected party president and elected deputy leader lost to the unelected Murrell and Oswald.”

Meanwhile, Joanna Cherry, who quit the NEC in June 2021, said she did so because of the “menacing atmosphere” of the party’s ruling council which she claimed was being “secretive and evasive.” 

In her resignation letter, obtained by the Sunday Times, the MP said it had “proved impossible for me to do the job I was elected to do”.

She said she was also “very concerned at the lack of adherence to the party’s constitution, the cavalier attitude towards legal advice and fiduciary duties”.

She added: “Over the years I have sat on a number of management boards and I have never seen business conducted in such an inadequate way as it is on the SNP NEC. Nor have I experienced the menacing atmosphere in which the business is conducted.”

Conservative party chairman Craig Hoy said the SNP should have "promptly suspended Peter Murrell at the start of the investigation into his management of the SNP’s finances."  

He added: “The party’s refusal to do shows the SNP’s reluctance to be open and transparent about where the money went and who knew about its murky finances.”