Scottish Government releases Police Scotland SNP probe arrest emails

Correspondence regarding the arrest of Nicola Sturgeon's husband Peter Murrell and the SNP's treasurer Colin Beattie has been revealed.

Scottish Government releases Police Scotland SNP finance probe Operation Branchform emails Getty Images

The Scottish Government has published correspondence relating to Police Scotland’s investigation of the SNP’s funding and finances.

Responding to a Freedom of Information request, emails relating to Operation Branchform were released on Thursday morning.

The communications reveal that Scotland’s chief civil servant was informed of the arrest of Nicola Sturgeon’s husband and former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell after it took place but before it was made public.

“As is routine for all high-profile Police Scotland (PS) action, the Chief Constable (CC) contacted me at 8am this morning to update on Operation Branchform,” John-Paul Marks, the Scottish Government’s permanent secretary wrote in an email to First Minister Humza Yousaf.

Correspondence between John-Paul Marks, the Scottish Government's permanent secretary, and First Minister Humza Yousaf.Scottish Government

“Following agreement with the Crown Office, PS have arrested a suspect and taken him into custody to be interviewed under caution.

“I informed you after the event and after this PS action had occurred; as is routine, with the explicit permission of the CC.

“In terms of any and all liaison from SG ministers or senior SG officials on Operation Branchform, I have agreed with the CC this should be via me only without exception.”

Last month, Police Scotland‘s outgoing chief of police Sir Iain Livingstone said it was “absolutely outrageous” to suggest the Scottish Government was tipped off about Murrell’s arrest.

Correspondence between John-Paul Marks, the Scottish Government's permanent secretary, and First Minister Humza Yousaf.Scottish Government

Detectives arrived at the house he shared with the former first minister at 7.35am on April 5 when Sturgeon was still inside.

The ex-SNP leader left shortly after and Police Scotland has confirmed that no advance warning of officers arriving was given.

Mr Marks email, sent at 9.20am on April 5, states that he was informed by the Chief Constable at 8am.

Police Scotland announced the arrest on social media and in a release issued to the media at 9.30am.

Another email from the permanent secretary to Yousaf covers Police Scotland’s arrest of then-SNP treasurer Colin Beattie on April 18.

Mr Marks states that he informed the First Minister after the arrest had taken place.

He also wrote: “I would advise no comment on live investigations.”

Operation Branchform began in July 2021 following a complaint about the way more than £600,000 of donations for a future independence referendum was spent.

Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon was arrested on June 11.

Murrell, Beattie and Sturgeon were all released without charge pending further investigations having been questioned by detectives for several hours.