(Sky News) The SNP has confirmed former leader Nicola Sturgeon will not be suspended amid a police probe into the party’s funding and finances.
The former first minister was arrested on Sunday morning and questioned for around seven hours before being released without charge pending further investigation.
On Monday, the party confirmed to Sky News it will not be removing Ms Sturgeon, who is still an MSP, from the party.
Responding to calls to suspend the 52-year-old, First Minister Humza Yousaf said: “No, I won’t be suspending Nicola Sturgeon.
“I’ll be treating her exactly in the same way as I treated, for example, Colin Beattie. Both released without charge, therefore there’s no reason for me to suspend them.”
In light of others being suspended from the SNP in the past in similar circumstances, Mr Yousaf added: “Look, I can only account for the decisions that I make, and I’m aiming to be as consistent in my approach to this. And I have shown that consistency because where individuals have been released without charge, let me emphasise that without charge, therefore I see no reason to suspend them.
“I can’t account for decisions that have been made in the past. I can only account for the decisions that I choose to make.”
Following her release from custody, Ms Sturgeon said she would “never do anything to harm either the SNP or the country” and described the situation as a “shock and deeply distressing”.
She added: “Obviously, given the nature of this process, I cannot go into detail. However, I do wish to say this, and to do so in the strongest possible terms.
“Innocence is not just a presumption I am entitled to in law. I know beyond doubt that I am in fact innocent of any wrongdoing.”
Police Scotland launched Operation Branchform into the SNP’s funding and finances back in 2021.
The long-running inquiry is linked to the spending of around £600,000 raised by supporters and earmarked for Scottish independence campaigning.
It is understood there have been complaints the ringfenced cash has been used improperly by being spent elsewhere.
Ms Sturgeon, the MSP for Glasgow Southside, is the third high-profile SNP politician to be arrested in connection with the probe.
Her husband, ex-SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, and former SNP treasurer Colin Beattie were both arrested and later released without charge back in April.
Earlier on Monday, former SNP leadership candidate Ash Regan said Ms Sturgeon should consider resigning her SNP membership.
Angus MacNeil, SNP MP, also called for “political distance” amid the “soap opera”, claiming Ms Sturgeon “suspended others from the SNP for an awful lot less” during her time in charge.
SNP MSP Michelle Thomson also suggested Ms Sturgeon should resign the party whip – saying she had had to do it when she was an MP despite not being “personally under investigation” and “certainly not arrested”.
Ms Thomson stressed she was a “strong believer in natural justice”, including the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in court.
Following the announcement Ms Sturgeon would not be suspended, Craig Hoy MSP, Scottish Conservatives chairman, said: “This is the action of a weak leader unable to stand up to the predecessor to whom he owes his job.
“Humza Yousaf’s claim that he has ‘no reason’ to suspend Nicola Sturgeon from the SNP is fooling no one.
“He knows, as everyone else does, that there’s a clear precedent in his party for MPs and MSPs under investigation to be suspended until the conclusion of their case. And, in this instance, the police probe into the SNP’s murky finances is very much ongoing.”
He added: “Several senior SNP figures have already said it’s wrong for Nicola Sturgeon to receive favourable treatment by the party.
“But the reason Humza Yousaf will not follow the precedent – which was set by his predecessor when she was party leader – is because he’s hopelessly compromised by the fact that he only won the leadership election thanks to the backing of Nicola Sturgeon and her inner circle.”
Speaking to Sky News, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “This is a political party that is famed now for a culture of secrecy and cover-up in government, and that has had devastating consequences.
“It’s now an incompetent and dysfunctional SNP government and that’s why we need fundamental change.”