Nicola Sturgeon pulls out of event as police search of home continues

The former first minister's husband Peter Murrell was arrested before being released without charge on Wednesday.

Former First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has pulled out of a planned event after her husband was arrested amid an investigation into the funding and finances of the Scottish National Party.

Peter Murrell was released on Wednesday without charge “pending further investigation”, with police remaining at the couple’s home more than 24 hours later.

On Thursday, it emerged Sturgeon would no longer be attending an in-person climate change event at the Edinburgh Science Festival.

She was set to join former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Patricia Espinosa, in a discussion on Scottish and global efforts to combat climate change and transitioning to a sustainable future.

Nicola Sturgeon with her husband Peter Murrell at Broomhouse Community Hall in Ballieston on December 2019.Getty Images

Instead, she will be replaced by cabinet secretary for Net Zero and Just Transition MSP Màiri McAllan.

A spokesperson for Edinburgh Science said: “While Nicola Sturgeon MSP is no longer attending our Climate of Change event, we are thrilled to be welcoming MSP Màiri McAllan, Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Just Transition who will join Ambassador Patricia Espinosa for this vital conversation.

“The Edinburgh Science Festival has been proudly programming events such as these which highlight and inspire people of all ages and all backgrounds to action on our climate emergency for many years.

“We look forward to welcoming our audiences to this insightful and inspiring discussion.”

Environment minister at the Scottish Government Màiri McAllan.Scottish Forestry

Sturgeon’s spokesperson said she wanted to “keep the focus of the event on the critical issue of the climate emergency”.

Three police vans were parked outside the Sturgeon and Murrell’s home on Thursday morning, with two uniformed officers stationed outside.

A large blue tent remains in place in the front garden of the property, which has been screened off with blue police screens.

The house and garden remain cordoned off with police tape.

A forensic tent was erected outside the former first minister's home in Uddingston on Wednesday. STV News

Police Scotland and the Crown Office are investigating how £600,000 of funding raised by the SNP for campaigning has been spent.

Visting an NHS 24 call centre in Glasgow on Thursday, Scotland’s health secretary Michael Matheson said the Government would not provide a “running commentary” of the investigation into the SNP’s finances, but conceded it was a “difficult time” for the party.

“What I’ve been very clear about – and what the party has been very clear about – is that the party will comply with any requests made by the police for information,” he said.

“I think it’s important that I acknowledge – and the First Minister acknowledged this yesterday – it’s a difficult time for the party at the present moment, given this investigation, but it’s important we allow the police to get on with their job and to carry out a very thorough and detailed investigation, and see what the outcome of that is.”

Former Scottish Government minister Alex Neil said it is “hard to believe” that Murrell’s arrest was not a factor in Sturgeon’s resignation as first minister.

Speak to Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “Well, Nicola did resign very suddenly. Everybody and their granny knew about this investigation.

“Given that a large number of people had been interviewed, including staff at SNP headquarters, it’s hard to believe Nicola wasn’t aware.”

He added: “Humza stood as the continuity candidate. Had this all happened … prior to the ballot opening, I’m absolutely sure that the continuity candidate would have found it much more difficult to win.”

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