SNP MSP accuses media and police of ‘collusion’ in party finances probe

James Dornan accused Police Scotland of making Nicola Sturgeon’s home look like ‘Fred West’s house’ when it was searched.

SNP MSP accuses media and police of ‘collusion’ in party finances probe PA Media

An SNP MSP has accused the police and media of colluding to make Nicola Sturgeon look bad during the investigation into the party’s finances.

Sturgeon was arrested on Sunday in relation to Operation Branchform – the name given to the inquiry by detectives – around two months after her husband and former party chief executive Peter Murrell was also taken into custody.

Both – as well as then-party treasurer Colin Beattie – were released without charge pending further investigation.

Along with the arrest of Murrell, police searched the home he shares with the former first minister, erecting a tent in the front garden to shield evidence from the public and watching media, with pictures of the search published worldwide.

James Dornan was speaking on the News Agents podcast.Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

Speaking to the News Agents podcast, MSP James Dornan accused the press of making “a big play” of Sturgeon’s arrest.

“The police and the media seem to have some kind of collusion about making sure that the media are in attendance when the slightest thing happens,” he said.

“It’s like Fred West’s house when they come to look for a paper trail.”

There is no evidence to suggest journalists were given advance notice of any of the arrests relating to the investigation and Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Iain Livingstone has defended the conduct of the force, telling the Times earlier this month the probe has been “proportionate and necessary”.

Speaking at a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority board in May, Sir Iain also chided politicians for casting aspersions on the probe.

“I would request, I would urge, all civic leaders – if offering any comment or thoughts on what is a live investigation, to act with prudence and responsibility,” he said before Sturgeon was arrested.

“Wholly inaccurate assertions and uninformed speculation will only serve to damage justice, infringe the rights of individuals and undermine the rule of law.”

Meanwhile, reports suggest First Minister Humza Yousaf told SNP MSPs to back his decision not to suspend his predecessor following her arrest or quit the party.

The comments – briefed to a newspaper by three anonymous sources – came during a meeting of the SNP group at Holyrood.

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