NICOLA Sturgeon has refused to stand down from the SNP in the wake of her arrest, arguing it would “compromise” her ability to deny any wrongdoing.

Despite some of her party’s MSPs urging her to suspend her membership, the former first minister refused, while insisting she still had the SNP’s interests at heart.

What was best for the Scottish Government and “what is best for me as an individual” were also part of her thinking, she said. 

Ms Sturgeon was speaking at a press conference in the Holyrood lobby attended by around 40 print and broadcast journalists.

The Glasgow Southside MSP was arrested on June 11th by detectives investigating whether £660,000 raised by the SNP for Indyref2 was spent on other things.

She was questioned for seven hours before being released without charge. 

Her husband, the former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, and former treasurer Colin Beattie MSP, were arrested and released without charge on April 5 and 18 respectively.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon refuses to say if husband innocent of wrongdoing

Appearing at the Scottish Parliament for the first time since her arrest, Ms Sturgeon repeated her claim that she had done nothing wrong.

However she repeatedly refused to say the same about Mr Murrell when asked, saying she was only able to speak for herself.

Asked if she was becoming as distraction to her successor Humza Yousaf, she said: “I think Humza is doing a fantastic job as First Minister

“When he was elected as first minister, I expected him to do a good job. 

“I wish he hadn't faced some of the circumstances he has. But I’m incredibly proud of the jib that he is doing and I think he's getting on with that on behalf of the people of Scotland;

“It won’t surprise anybody to hear that I search my soul on these questions on an ongoing basis. I have dedicated most of my life to the SNP. It's not been a sacrifice.

“The opportunities and experiences I've had in return have been immense.

“But the interests of the SNP are as close to my heart as it’s possible for anything to be.

“There may be an argument that if I thought if I was to step aside that you would all then accept that this had nothing to do with the SNP. There may be an argument.

“That's not the case. 

“But also what that would do, I think, would be to compromise my ability and my right to assert the position that I hold absolutely, which is that I have done nothing wrong. 

“But I will always consider and I’ll consider on an ongoing basis at all times what's in the best interest of the SNP, party that I have given my all to over almost my entire life and an organisation that for me is not abstract, it's made up of my friends, my family, my colleagues.

“You've heard me describe it before as my extended family. That's the depth of the love, affection and concern I have for the SNP.”

Reminded she had asked other parliamentarians, including Michelle Thomson, to step back when they had done nothing wrong, Ms Sturgeon did not deny it.

However she said there was no “iron precedent”, adding: “I will always consider what is in the best interests of the SNP.”

She added: “The SNP’s been my life and that's been voluntary and something that I cherish and continue to cherish, but I'm also an individual that is entitled to assert what I believe to my very, very core - that I have done nothing wrong. I respect the process that is underway. But I will continue to maintain that very clear position.”

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Asked if she had considered quitting, she said: “I think about what is in the best interests of the party I’ve given my life to, what’s in the best interests of the government that until very recently I headed and spent 16 years either being the head of and second-in-command in.

“And obviously I think a lot about, in this difficult situation, what is best for me as an individual, and I will come to judgments.

“People can disagree or agree with those judgments. That is entirely up to them. I understand some of the comments that have been made. 

“But I take all of these issues and considerations deadly seriously.”

Asked if her husband was also innocent of wrongdoing, she said that as a matter of fact, and not something to draw an inference from, she could “only speak for myself and I am only speaking for myself”. 

She went on: “There is also a difference between me and my husband. 

“I am an elected politician, I'm a public servant, and therefore there is an expectation, I think a legitimate expectation on your part, that I make statements and to the best of my ability answer questions. Obviously Peter is not in that position.”
Asked about her personal approval ratings sliding, the SNP falling in the polls, and her own colleagues wanted distance from her, she said: “People are entitled to that opinion

“I've set out as clearly as I can. My position. I've been deeply touched by the support I've had from people I know, from people in the wider public that I've never met, over recent days.

“In this kind of situation, I don't take that for granted at all, but I've been deeply touched by it. 

“And given that I'm standing in front of all of you, in front of cameras right now, I’d wanted to take the opportunity to thank people for that.”

Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy said: “Michelle Thomson is rightly annoyed that she was forced to give up the SNP whip by her then-leader Nicola Sturgeon, who is now refusing to follow her own precedent.

“But rather than apologise to her colleague, Nicola Sturgeon would only say she understood her anger, which will be cold comfort to those suspended under her leadership.

“Nicola Sturgeon’s claim that she’s not going anywhere, because to do so might compromise her protestations of innocence, indicates she is more interested in her reputation than the SNP’s.”