Nicola Sturgeon has insisted she will not quit the SNP as she returned to Parliament for the first time since her arrest as part of the police probe into party finances.
The former First Minister maintained her innocence on her return to Holyrood after being questioned by officers for around seven hours last Sunday as part of the police investigation into the SNP’s finances.
Sturgeon acknowledged the view of colleagues including Michelle Thomson, who was forced into resignation after her name was linked to a police inquiry despite never being detained by officers, after it was suggested she should walk away from the party.
But she denied her case had become a “distraction” and praised Humza Yousaf’s handling of the situation in his first few months in his role as SNP leader.
“The interests of the SNP are as close to my heart as anything is possible to be,” she told assembled media at a press conference at the Scottish Parliament.
“Fundamentally, I believe resigning would compromise my ability and my right to assert the position I am entitled to which is that I have done nothing wrong.
“I will always consider what is in the best interests of the SNP, which as I have said many times has been an extended family.”
The former FM said she would not detail the grounds of her arrest, but did confirm it was in connection with Operation Branchform.
The ex-SNP leader became the third person to be held by Police Scotland as a suspect, alongside her husband and former party chief executive, Peter Murrell.
Sturgeon added she would not comment on Murrell’s arrest, and said her media conferences were not intended to be a “distraction” for Yousaf, but rather to avoid disruption to her day-to-day life.
“The difference between myself and my husband is that I am an elected official and he is not,” she said.
“If I had not called press conferences outside my house [on Sunday] and today, it would not have been possible to go about my work.
“I would never do anything to harm the SNP”.
Following her arrest, opposition parties and some in the SNP called for her to resign from the party.
Thomson claimed she was forced into resignation in 2015 after it emerged police were investigating a solicitor who had carried property deals on her behalf years earlier.
Police made it clear she was not a suspect during that probe, but Thomson said Yousaf had to be “consistent” in suspending Sturgeon from the party.
But Yousaf backed his predecessor, saying she should not feel the need to quit because she had not been charged with a crime.
Sturgeon said it was “incorrect” to say she had set an “iron precedent” when it came to suspensions or resignations amid allegations of wrongdoing.
“This is a process I am in no control of,” she said.
“I understand Michelle’s position and those who agree with her. But it is not correct to say that I set an iron precedent previously.”