HUMZA Yousaf is under growing pressure to suspend Nicola Sturgeon from the SNP after her arrest in the long-running policy inquiry into the party’s finances.

The First Minister was yesterday branded “weak” after saying he saw “no reason” to withdraw the whip from his predecessor as she had been released on Sunday without charge.

However he was challenged by some of his own MSPs and MPs, who cited Ms Sturgeon’s own hard-nosed record on party discipline and demanded consistency.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said: “Nicola Sturgeon would have suspended Nicola Sturgeon, because when she was leader of the party she suspended a number of SNP politicians who were under investigation by the police. And the fact that Humza Yousaf has refused to do this shows how weak he is in the role as SNP leader.”

MSP Ash Regan, who challenged Mr Yousaf for the SNP leadership, said she thought Ms Sturgeon should resign the whip voluntarily and sit as an Independent at Holyrood.

But she also said Mr Yousaf should consider suspending her, telling the BBC: “Accountability in these types of situations is really important.”

MSP Michelle Thomson, who was forced to resign the whip while an MP over a police probe that came to nothing, said the processes under Ms Sturgeon’s own leadership “were clear”. She said: “I feel the right thing for the former First Minister to do is resign the SNP whip. 

“This is not because she doesn’t deserve to be treated as innocent until proven guilty - she does - but because her values should be consistent”. 

SNP MP Angus MacNeil said on Twitter that he remembered Ms Thomson's experience well and that she was given "no choice" but to quit.

He added: "This soap-opera has gone far enough, Nicola Sturgeon suspended others from the SNP for an awful lot less! Time for political distance until the investigation ends either way."

Ms Sturgeon showed no sign of stepping down after her arrest and seven hours of questioning on Sunday, insisting she was “innocent of any wrongdoing”.

Police Scotland has been investigating since 2021 whether £660,000 raised by the SNP for a second referendum was spent on other things.

In April, Ms Sturgeon’s home was searched and her husband, the former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, was arrested as part of the same probe, Operation Branchform.

The then SNP treasurer, MSP Colin Beattie, was arrested and questioned later the same month. Like Mr Murrell, he was released without charge.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon should resign SNP membership, says Ash Regan

On a visit to Inverness yesterday, Mr Yousaf told BBC Scotland that Ms Sturgeon's arrest had been "quite painful personally" given their "long-standing friendship" but he had to "separate that from the really important job I have got to do as first minister".

He added:  "I will do what I believe is right to the values of natural justice.

"Nicola Sturgeon, like Colin Beattie, like Peter Murrell, was released without charge. Therefore I see no reason for their membership to be suspended."

Asked if Sturgeon should voluntarily resign, the First Minister added: "There is no pressure on her to do so from me or the SNP."

Asked why Ms Thomson had been asked to resign the whip in 2015 but not Ms Sturgeon had not, Mr Yousaf said: “I can only account for decisions that have been made by me.

“I have been leader now for 11 weeks.

"I have shown a consistency in terms of the approach. Others have been released without charge and I propose to treat Nicola Sturgeon exactly the same.

"I can’t account for decisions that were made before I was leader of the SNP."

SNP President Michael Russell later said Ms Thomson’s argument “isn’t convincing”, and that if she felt treated badly she ought to want Ms Sturgeon to be “treated better”.

He told the BBC: “We should show is an element of benevolence, an element of neutrality, and an element of generosity and that's all I think I'm asking to apply to Nicola as I would apply to anybody else.”

In 2018, after it emerged the Scottish Government had investigated allegations of sexual misconduct against him, Alex Salmond resigned from the SNP after 45 years as a member. 

He said he had done so to help his successor, Ms Sturgeon, by blunting opposition attacks.

“I have always thought it a very poor idea to suspend any party member on the basis of complaints and allegations. Innocent until proven guilty is central to our concept of justice.

“However I did not come into politics to facilitate opposition attacks on the SNP.”

He also said he wanted to avoid a forced suspension causing “substantial internal division”.

READ MORE: Will Alex Salmond's pact benefit indy parties – or Alex Salmond?

Reacting to Mr Yousaf refusing to suspend Ms Sturgeon, Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy said: “This is the action of a weak leader unable to stand up to the predecessor to whom he owes his job. Humza Yousaf’s claim that he has ‘no reason’ to suspend Nicola Sturgeon from the SNP is fooling no one.

“He knows, as everyone else does, that there’s a clear precedent in his party for MPs and MSPs under investigation to be suspended until the conclusion of their case.

“The reason Humza Yousaf will not follow the precedent – which was set by his predecessor when she was party leader – is because he’s hopelessly compromised by the fact that he only won the leadership election thanks to the backing of Ms Sturgeon and her inner circle.”

Mr Sarwar said: “The question is for Humza Yousaf, is he strong enough to take action? Or is he too weak to take action?

“That’s a decision for them, what I’m more interested in is the fact that we now have an incompetent and dysfunctional SNP Government, a Government now famed for secrecy, for cover-up and economic instability and incompetence.”