SNP MSPs send flowers to Sturgeon 'as mark of sympathy' following arrest

Depute leader Keith Brown said the decision was made 'given what she has been through over recent days'.

SNP MSPs have agreed to send flowers to former first minister Nicola Sturgeon “as a mark of sympathy” following her arrest at the weekend.

Keith Brown, the party’s depute leader, said the decision was made “given what she has been through over recent days”.

Sturgeon was arrested on Sunday and subsequently released without charge.

She became the third figure in the SNP to be arrested and interviewed by detectives in the ongoing investigation into the party’s finances.

Her husband Peter Murrell and former treasurer Colin Beattie have also been questioned under arrest and then released pending further investigation.

Brown said: “We’ve just a very constructive group meeting – you may have heard the applause for the First Minister and huge support, both for him and the former first minister, to whom we have agreed to send some flowers as a mark of sympathy, given what she has been through over recent days.”

Brown also backed First Minister Humza Yousaf’s decision not to suspend the whip from Sturgeon, saying it is in the interests of “natural justice” that she stays in the party.

He described opposition calls to suspend Sturgeon as “absolute nonsense”, adding that other cases where the party’s MSPs had been suspended while allegations around them were being investigated involved “different circumstances”.

“They (opposition) also say it would be easier for him to discipline or suspend – which he doesn’t have the power to do, it’s not how it works in the SNP – Nicola. Now, he has said quite clearly there is no need to do that but the easier thing for him to do would be to bow to those demands.

“He’s taken the tougher course, observing the principles of natural justice. She has not been charged, she has not been accused, she has been released, so he is taking exactly the right decision.”

However, the Scottish Conservatives said some of Brown’s claims were “absurd”.

Deputy leader Meghan Gallacher said: “Keith Brown’s desperate spinning in defence of Humza Yousaf will only pour petrol on the bitter civil war between SNP MSPs and MPs over Nicola Sturgeon’s preferential treatment.

“His claim that Michelle Thomson had voluntarily given up the SNP whip when she was under investigation amounts to gaslighting, as she has said very clearly she had the whip removed from her by Nicola Sturgeon.”

She added: “No amount of spin can disguise the fact that Humza Yousaf is so compromised by his closeness to Nicola Sturgeon that he is having to move the goalposts on internal discipline.”

Former SNP leadership contender Ash Regan, and MP Angus MacNeil, both of whom were critics of Sturgeon, are also amongst those who have suggested that she should be suspended.

SNP MSP Michelle Thomson was also among those calling for Sturgeon to resign from the whip while the investigation was ongoing.

Thomson argued that she herself had needed to resign the whip while an MP in 2015, despite not being “personally under investigation” and “certainly not arrested”.

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