Humza Yousaf says he won't suspend Sturgeon from SNP following arrest

First Minister says 'there is no reason' to suspend his predecessor after she was released without charge.

First Minister Humza Yousaf says he won’t suspend Nicola Sturgeon from the SNP following her arrest at the weekend.

The former party leader was arrested and released without charge on Sunday as part of an ongoing police investigation into the SNP’s finances.

Speaking to STV News in Inverness, Yousaf said he saw “no reason” to suspend a party member who has been released without charge.

He said: “I won’t be suspending Nicola Sturgeon, I’ll be treating her in exactly the same as I treated, for example, Colin Beattie – both released without charge and, therefore, there is no reason for me to suspend them.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross described Yousaf as “a weak leader unable to stand up to his predecessor.

“The SNP should follow their own precedent and suspend Nicola Sturgeon while she is being investigated by the police,” he tweeted.

Sturgeon issued a statement on Sunday saying she “knows beyond doubt she is innocent”, having been detained by officers as part of Operation Branchform and questioned for seven hours in custody.

But pressure has been mounting on the SNP to suspend Sturgeon from the party if she does not resign her membership.

Former leadership candidate Ash Regan said “decisive action” is needed, while fellow MSP Michelle Thomson and MP Angus MacNeil have also called on her to step down.

Opposition politicians from Scottish Labour and the Scottish Tories also called for Sturgeon to be suspended. 

“I think he should consider it,” Regan told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme.

“I would caveat that, and I think she no doubt will be considering whether she should resign from the party at the moment.”

Regan, who has been a frequent critic of Sturgeon, also appeared to suggest the former first minister has broken the party’s conduct rules.

“The SNP code of conduct, it does say that members should refrain from conduct that’s likely to cause damage or hinder the party’s aims,” she said.

Police outside the home of former first minister Nicola Sturgeon.Getty Images

Asked why she thinks Sturgeon could have broken the rules, Regan said that, while all three of those arrested in the party finance probe had been released without charge pending further investigation, the issue has become a “distraction”.

“I think that the leadership and Humza need to really think about taking decisive action at the moment,” she said.

Regan’s comments come after one of the SNP’s own MPs, Angus MacNeil, called for “political distance” from Sturgeon, claiming she “suspended others from the SNP for an awful lot less” during her time in charge.

Michelle Thomson, the SNP MSP for Falkirk East, also said resigning the whip would be the right thing for Sturgeon to do.

Michelle Thomson.Ken Jack / Contributor via Getty Images

Thomson was reported to the Crown Office in 2016 following a police investigation into alleged mortgage fraud.

She sat as an independent MP after withdrawing from the SNP party whip as the allegations came to light in September 2015.

But Thomson did not face criminal proceedings due to a lack of “credible and reliable evidence”.

She said: “I am on record as being a strong believer in natural justice: the presumption of innocence if, and until guilt can be proven in court of law.

“I stand by that. However, the processes set by the SNP under her leadership were clear. Some eight years ago when an MP, I was required to resign the SNP whip although I was never personally under investigation and was certainly not investigated.

“After careful consideration, I feel that the right thing for the former first minister 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.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie also said Sturgeon should be suspended.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it was a “shocking state of affairs although not surprising, because I think we all anticipated that at some point Nicola Sturgeon would be arrested for questioning about the SNP finances because she is, of course, the third signatory on the accounts”.

Bailie added: “The question in my mind is, given all this chaos, given the kind of secrecy and cover-up that has been the hallmark of how the SNP operate, is whether Humza Yousaf, the current First Minister, is indeed strong enough to suspend her and protect the party.

“I’ve no doubt in my mind, he absolutely needs to do that.”

Asked what the consequences have been for Scottish politics, Baillie said: “The impact has been profound, irrespective of what the outcome is.”

An SNP spokesman said the party was co-operating fully with the investigation.

Sturgeon was questioned for around seven hours on Sunday before she was released at about 5.25pm as part of the police investigation that began in July 2021.

She was the third, high-profile SNP politician to be arrested in connection with alleged irregularities in the party’s finances after complaints were raised almost two years ago.

Police opened an investigation into the SNP’s finances in July 2021 after allegations that £600,000 raised for a potential independence referendum campaign had been diverted elsewhere.

Concerns had first been raised by the former party treasurer, Douglas Chapman MP, who resigned from the role, claiming he did not have enough information to do the job.

SNP accounts from August 2021 showed the money was “earmarked” through internal processes, though they did not officially record a separate sum.

It later emerged former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell – Sturgeon’s husband – had lent the party £100,000 in June 2021 to help with a “cash flow” problem.

Murrell and Colin Beattie MSP, former party treasurer, were arrested and released without charge pending further investigation, in April.

The home shared by Murrell and Sturgeon was one of the addresses raided by police alongside the party’s Edinburgh office.

Scottish Conservatives chairman Craig Hoy said: “Nicola Sturgeon and other senior SNP figures – including Humza Yousaf – must co-operate fully with this police investigation and commit to full transparency surrounding it.

“The SNP continue to be engulfed in murkiness and chaos. Humza Yousaf must now show some leadership and suspend his predecessor from the SNP.”

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