The SNP’s media chief has resigned after the party wrongly claimed membership numbers were at around 100,000.
Murray Foote – the party’s head of communications – said in a statement on Friday that agreed party responses which he had issued to the media had “created a serious impediment” to his role.
He said it had become “apparent there are serious issues” with the statements he issued.
Foote had described initial reports that membership had dropped as “drivel”, with the party saying in a separate story in the National that the “figure that was reported is not just flat wrong, it’s wrong by about 30,000”.
However, on Thursday, the party said membership as of February 15 of this year was 72,186 – having fallen from 103,884 in 2021.
The SNP previously said it would only release the information following the outcome of the leadership race later this month, however was pressured to do so earlier by all three candidates vying to become First Minister.
In a statement released on Friday evening, Foote appeared to admit he signed off the statement rubbishing the original story.
He tweeted: “Acting in good faith and as a courtesy to colleagues at party HQ, I issued agreed party responses to media inquiries regarding membership.
“It has subsequently become apparent there are serious issues with these responses.
“Consequently, I concluded this created a serous impediment to my role and I resigned my position with the SNP group at Holyrood.”
It is currently unclear if he was provided with the wrong membership data that led to the response.
Scottish Conservative MSP Russell Findlay, a former journalist, said Foote was being used as a “fall guy”.
“Murray Foote was giving out information he had been told, which was false,” he said.
“He didn’t lie. The SNP lied. The problem is not a press officer.
“The problem is the rotten SNP leadership who deliberately lied to the press and public.
“We wish our best to Mr Foote, who was clearly told false information and is the fall guy for the SNP hierarchy.”
An SNP spokesman said Foote had been an “outstanding head of press for the Holyrood group” who had “acted entirely in good faith throughout”.
“The party was asked a specific question about loss of members as a direct result of the GRR (Gender Recognition Reform) Bill and Indyref2.
“The answer given was intended to make clear that these two reasons had not been the cause of significant numbers of members leaving.
“The membership figure is normally produced annually and is not produced in response to individual media queries, including in this instance.
“In retrospect, however, we should not have relied on an understanding of people’s reasons for leaving as the basis of the information given to Murray and, thereafter, the media.
“A new, modernised membership system is currently being developed for the party.”
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