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Nicola Sturgeon not being investigated by police ‘at this time’ over ‘deleted’ pandemic WhatsApp messages | Politics News

Scottish police have told Sky News Nicola Sturgeon is not being investigated “at this time” after it emerged the former first minister wiped pandemic related WhatsApp messages.

The UK COVID Inquiry heard on Friday that everything sent and received by Ms Sturgeon during COVID-19 on the platform was erased.

She previously said she never used informal messages to make decisions throughout the crisis but was criticised by several political opponents who say she is attempting to hide exchanges with key ministers and advisers.

Jamie Dawson KC, counsel to the inquiry, said on Friday that a table submitted by the Scottish government confirmed that the WhatsApp messages were gone.

The former first minister hit back on Saturday and insisted the inquiry “does have messages” between her and those she communicated with.

Nicola Sturgeon MSP and John Swinney MSP during First Minster's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Picture date: Thursday January 11, 2024.Holyrood
Sturgeon and John Swinney MSP during First Minster’s Questions in Edinburgh

On X, Ms Sturgeon said: “In light of recent coverage, there are certain points I feel it important to make clear.

“Contrary to the impression given in some coverage, the inquiry does have messages between me and those I most regularly communicated with through informal means.”

She added: “Although these had not been retained on my own device, I was able to obtain copies which I submitted to the inquiry last year.

Read more from Sky News:
Scots share pandemic stories
PM appears at the COVID inquiry
Mum launches legal action over daughter’s long COVID treatment

“To be clear, I conducted the COVID response through formal processes from my office in St Andrews House, not through WhatsApp or any other informal messaging platform. I was not a member of any WhatsApp groups.

“The number of people I communicated with through informal messaging at all was limited.

“Also, any handwritten notes made by me were passed to my private office to be dealt with and recorded as appropriate. Throughout the entire process, I acted in line with Scottish government policy.”

The Scottish COVID Bereaved group confirmed on Saturday evening it was “considering” lodging a formal police complaint against Ms Sturgeon.

The organisation, which is represented by lawyer Aamer Anwar, said it is likely to wait for the evidence of the former SNP leader to conclude before making its next move.

Sky News questioned Police Scotland about the matter on Saturday.

A spokesman replied: “At this time, we’ve nothing to indicate any police involvement or that this is a policing matter.”

Ms Sturgeon is due to give evidence directly to the UK inquiry in the coming weeks in Edinburgh.

Nicola Sturgeon calls arrest a ‘shock and deeply distressing’ after release without charge | Politics News

Nicola Sturgeon has been released without charge after she was arrested earlier today in connection with an investigation into SNP finances.

Scotland’s former first minister was taken into custody and questioned as a suspect.

After she was released Ms Sturgeon said in a statement: “To find myself in the situation I did today when I am certain I have committed no offence is both a shock and deeply distressing.

“I know that this ongoing investigation is difficult for people, and I am grateful that so many continue to show faith in me and appreciate that I would never do anything to harm either the SNP or the country.

“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.

“To the many people who have sent messages of support over these past difficult weeks – including since today’s news broke – thank you for your kindness.

“Thank you also to my close circle of family and friends who are giving me much-needed strength at this time.

“Finally, while I will take a day or two to process this latest development, I intend to be back in Parliament soon where I will continue to represent my Glasgow Southside constituents to the very best of my ability.”

Politics latest: Former first minister questioned

Upon her release, a Police Scotland statement said: “A 52-year-old woman who was arrested earlier today, Sunday 11 June, 2023, as a suspect in connection with the ongoing investigation into the funding and finances of the Scottish National Party, has been released without charge pending further investigation.

“The woman was questioned by Police Scotland detectives after she was arrested at 10.09am. She was released from custody at 5.24pm.

“A report will be sent to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.”

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Nicola Sturgeon is in custody

Scotland’s former first minister was the latest high-profile figure in the party to be detained as part of Police Scotland’s Operation Branchform into the whereabouts of £600,000 of funding that had been earmarked for a second independence vote.

It is understood there have been complaints the ringfenced cash may have been used improperly by being spent elsewhere.

Her arrest came on the back of the detentions of party treasurer Colin Beattie and former party chief executive Peter Murrell – also Ms Sturgeon’s husband – who were both subsequently released without charge.

Police previously searched the SNP headquarters and Ms Sturgeon and Mr Murrell’s home as part of the investigation.

At the time of her arrest, a spokesperson for Ms Sturgeon said: “Nicola Sturgeon has today, Sunday 11 June, by arrangement with Police Scotland, attended an interview where she was to be arrested and questioned in relation to Operation Branchform.

“Nicola has consistently said she would co-operate with the investigation if asked and continues to do so.”

Politically this is a hammer blow for the SNP

This is the bombshell that senior SNP figures feared but knew was probably coming

Nicola Sturgeon’s arrest is seismic. It was unthinkable a few short months ago.

The party she once led was a political powerhouse run on a system of discipline.

But since her shock resignation earlier this year, there have been some nationalist figures emerging to suggest the SNP under Ms Sturgeon and her husband Peter Murrell was secretive.

Leaked videos from around the time the police probe began showed Ms Sturgeon rubbishing suggestions all was not well with the SNP’s finances. The former first minister is now facing those very questions in a police interview suite under caution as a suspect.

Detectives will have been careful given the huge sensitivities in this case.

It has been suggested Ms Sturgeon’s detention was inevitable given the other two names on the latest SNP financial accounts were previously arrested.

But it still is incredible to see the reality play out in front of our eyes.

A luxury £100,000 motorhome was also seized from outside the home of Mr Murrell’s mother in Dunfermline, Fife.

An SNP spokesperson said: “These issues are subject to a live police investigation.

“The SNP have been cooperating fully with this investigation and will continue to do so however it is not appropriate to publicly address any issues while that investigation is ongoing.”

Ms Sturgeon’s arrest will intensify the scandal that has engulfed Scotland’s largest political party just months after she stood down as party leader and first minister in February.

At the time, Ms Sturgeon said she was quitting because the job “takes its toll on you and all around you”.

She said she believed part of “serving well would be to know almost instinctively when the time is right” to step down, adding: “In my head and in my heart I know that time is now, that it is right for me and my party and for the country.”

But months later, Mr Murrell was arrested – creating a sense of turmoil that has overshadowed the new leadership of Humza Yousaf, who was elected to replace Ms Sturgeon in a bitter and divisive leadership race in March.

Mr Yousaf previously said he was unaware the SNP owned a £100,000 motorhome until he became party leader.

He also admitted that he was unaware that the SNP’s longstanding auditors, Johnston Carmichael, had quit in September 2022 following a review of their client portfolio until he became party leader.

The party had been under pressure to find new auditors in order to file its accounts with the Electoral Commission by 7 July or risk being fined.

Last month Mr Yousaf confirmed the SNP had signed a contract with a new auditor more than half a year after the previous firm quit.

Read more:
Arrests, a luxury motorhome and a power couple’s fall: The inside story of SNP police probe
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross criticises SNP ‘secrecy, spin and cover-ups’

SNP MP Joanna Cherry said it was a “sad and difficult day for Scotland and for my party”.

“As I have said before I believe passionately in due process, respecting the integrity of an ongoing investigation and the principle of innocent until proven guilty and I shall not be commenting further,” she tweeted.

Labour’s Shadow Scotland Secretary Ian Murray said the arrest was a “deeply concerning development”.

“The Police Scotland investigation must be allowed to proceed without interference.

“For too long, a culture of secrecy and cover-up has been allowed to fester at the heart of the SNP.

“The same culture that leads to police tents in front gardens created the deeply dysfunctional government that is currently failing Scots.

“Humza Yousaf must urgently come clean on what he knows – the people of Scotland deserve answers.”

Nicola Sturgeon: Top prosecutor refuses to say if search of former first minister’s home was ‘deliberately delayed’ until after she left office | Politics News

The head of Scotland’s prosecution service has refused to say whether a search warrant for Nicola’s Sturgeon’s home was “deliberately delayed” until after the SNP leadership contest ended.

Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC, who leads the Crown Office, was questioned by Sky News after it emerged her organisation was made aware of a police request to raid the former first minister’s home two weeks before it was given the green light.

The SNP‘s headquarters in Edinburgh was also raided by detectives.

According to a Freedom of Information request first published in The Sun newspaper, Police Scotland asked prosecutors to sign off the warrants on 20 March – which was one week before Humza Yousaf became SNP leader.

The go-ahead was not officially given until 3 April.

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Search on Sturgeon’s home ends

The Lord Advocate is the most senior law officer in Scotland and sits in the Scottish government cabinet as chief legal adviser.

Sky News approached Ms Bain as she departed Tuesday morning’s cabinet with First Minister Humza Yousaf.

She did not reply when asked if the Crown Office “deliberately” delayed issuing warrants until after the SNP contest and entered her car when asked if she personally was aware of developments in the case.

Sky News' reporter Connor Gillies approaching Dorothy Bain in Edinburgh
Sky News’ Scotland correspondent Connor Gillies approaching Dorothy Bain in Edinburgh

The Crown Office said it received a “draft warrant” before it was “finalised” on 3 April.

A spokesperson for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said: “COPFS understand the interest in this case but to protect the fair administration of justice we urge restraint in public comment.

“It is standard that any case regarding politicians is dealt with by prosecutors without the involvement of the Lord Advocate or Solicitor General.

“COPFS will continue to work with police on this ongoing investigation.”

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I had ‘no prior knowledge’ of raid

‘Revelation will raise eyebrows across Scotland’

Scottish Conservative MSP Russell Findlay said: “There appears to be no evidence of any undue influence or interference in this process.

“However, the lack of answers to these questions only serves to fuel public concerns about the decision-making taking place behind closed doors.

“The whole murky saga brings into sharp focus the untenable dual role of the Lord Advocate, both as head of the prosecution service and the Scottish government’s most senior lawyer with a place at the cabinet table.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “This is a very interesting revelation that will lead to raised eyebrows across Scotland.

“Whilst I accept that the Lord Advocate may not have had a direct influence on the timing, this story underlines why we need to have a serious discussion in Scotland about separating the role of the Lord Advocate to ensure that there is no perception of conflict of interest can ever occur.”

Former chief executive of the SNP, Peter Murrell returning to his home in Uddingston, Glasgow. Mr Murrell was arrested earlier this month by police investigating the SNPs finances, and questioned for more than 11 hours before being released pending further investigation. Picture date: Thursday April 20, 2023.
Ms Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell, former chief executive of the SNP

Read more:
Scottish Tory leader condemns SNP ‘secrecy, spin and cover-ups’
Nicola Sturgeon says SNP crisis is beyond her ‘worst nightmares’
Who is at the centre of the police probe into the SNP?

Long-standing SNP chief executive Peter Murrell was arrested and later released without charge pending further investigations amid the probe.

A £100,000 luxury motorhome was removed from the home of Mr Murrell’s elderly mother in Fife.

SNP stalwart Colin Beattie quit as party treasurer hours after he was arrested and released as part of the same investigation.

Police Scotland say the probe, dubbed Operation Branchform, continues.

Nicola Sturgeon will ‘fully cooperate’ with police after arrest of her husband | UK News

Nicola Sturgeon has said she will “fully cooperate” with police after the arrest this week of her husband Peter Murrell, the former chief executive of the Scottish National Party (SNP).

The former Scottish first minister broke her silence after Mr Murrell’s arrest on Wednesday as part of an investigation into the SNP’s finances.

She said recent days had been “obviously difficult” during a short statement outside the couple’s Glasgow home.

But she added she could not comment on the investigation into how around £600,000 which was earmarked for an independence campaign was spent, “as much as there are things I may want to say”.

“The last few days have been obviously difficult, quite dramatic at times, but I understand that is part of a process,” she told reporters.

Ms Sturgeon said she understands the “scrutiny that comes on me as a public figure”, adding: “But I’m also entitled to a little bit of privacy in my own home.”

Read more:
Peter Murrell arrested over SNP funding
SNP auditors resign as Murrell faces probe
Yousaf says governance of SNP ‘was not as it should be’

She also asked journalists to “respect” her neighbours’ privacy.

She said: “Over the years, as a result of living next door to me, they’ve been subjected to more than their fair share of disruption and inconvenience.

“And that has obviously been particularly the case over the last couple of days.”

“So that’s really all I needed to say just now, other than I intend to get on with life and my job as you would expect me to,” she added.

Police searched the former first minister’s home in Glasgow for more than a day during the week.

Asked if she had been questioned by police, Ms Sturgeon replied: “I haven’t, but I will fully cooperate with the police as and when they request that, if indeed they do.”

She wouldn’t say whether detectives have indicated that they wish to question her.

Mr Murrell was released on Wednesday evening without charge pending further investigation.

Ms Sturgeon said that her husband was home but was “not able to say anything” about his arrest.

“Again, that’s not necessarily a matter of choice. That’s just the nature of this,” Ms Sturgeon added.

SNP leadership race: Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan announce bids to succeed Nicola Sturgeon | UK News

The Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf and former minister Ash Regan have announced their bids to stand to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the SNP.

The pair made their announcements in the Sunday Mail newspaper, with Mr Yousaf describing the time since Ms Sturgeon announced her resignation as a “rollercoaster of emotions”.

They are the first candidates to officially declare their intention to stand.

Mr Yousaf said: “You’ve got to put yourself forward if you think you’re the best person for the job. And I do. This is the top job in the country, and it needs somebody who has experience.”

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf during a visit to the Rapid Cancer Diagnostic Service (RCDS) at the NHS Fife Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy. The chairman of a doctors' union has warned there is "no way that the NHS in Scotland can survive" in its current form as he renewed his calls for a national conversation on the future of the service. Dr Iain Kennedy, chairman of the British Medical Association in Scotland, issued the warning on Wednesday, and said his NHS colleagues had told him over the pas
Humza Yousaf

The Glasgow Pollok MSP has been viewed as a potential successor to Ms Sturgeon since he first entered Holyrood in 2011.

He has been a perennial frontbencher in every SNP administration since, but has become mired with controversy in recent years surrounding the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill – which faced criticisms over its impact on freedom of expression – and his stewardship of the NHS, which faced the hardest winter in its history in recent months.

Announcing her bid, Ms Regan said she believes she is the right person to “bring back unity, draw a line under certain things and move past them”.

SNP Minister Ash Regan speaks at the For Women Scotland and the Scottish Feminist Network demonstration outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, ahead of the vote on the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill. Picture date: Wednesday December 21, 2022.
Ash Regan

She referred to getting the NHS “back on its feet” following the COVID pandemic, boosting the economy, creating jobs and dealing with the cost of living crisis.

The former community safety minister has been referred to as a rebel SNP MSP after she resigned in protest against the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, and has since become an outspoken critic of the legislation.

She has also called for SNP members who left in the past year to be given a vote in the leadership race – a move described as “preposterous” by deputy first minister John Swinney.

Read more:
The controversies which piled pressure on Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon’s time as Scotland’s first minister in 10 charts

Other potential candidates yet to announce their bids include finance secretary Kate Forbes, culture secretary Angus Robertson and Mairi McAllan.

Mr Swinney has ruled himself out to be next the leader, as did Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s Westminster leader.

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How the SNP will elect its new leader

SNP MP Angus MacNeil told Sky News that the party has a number of options to choose from following Ms Sturgeon’s surprise resignation.

“There are other capable people such as Jenny Gilruth or Ivan McKee, or I think Kate Forbes is going to put her hat into the ring as well,” he said.

“But one of the things that we do have is a depth of talent in the SNP.”

Candidates have until Friday 24 February to receive more than the threshold of 100 nominations from at least 20 local branches.

If more than one candidate passes that mark, an election will be triggered, culminating on 27 March.

The recent controversies which piled pressure on Nicola Sturgeon as first minister announces resignation | UK News

Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to step down as first minister comes after a number of controversial issues piled pressure on the SNP leader.

Ms Sturgeon’s Scottish government came under fire last month after transgender double rapist Isla Bryson was housed in an all-female prison before being moved to the male estate.

The 31-year-old had been found guilty of attacking two women while a man and was initially housed in Cornton Vale near Stirling.

Live updates as Sturgeon announces resignation
‘I know the time is now’ – Sturgeon’s resignation speech

The case caused controversy amid a debate around self-ID and the Scottish government’s Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Act, which was blocked by the UK government.

Following public backlash, Scotland’s Justice Secretary Keith Brown ordered an urgent case review into the management of transgender prisoners.

Although the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) concluded that women were ‘not at risk of harm’ during Bryson’s stay at Cornton Vale, the Scottish Conservatives branded the report a “whitewash summary” and called for it to be published in full.

Tory MSP Russell Findlay said: “We still have no idea why a double rapist was sent into a women’s prison or what involvement SNP ministers had in his removal following the public backlash.”

Read more:
Nicola Sturgeon resigns as Scotland’s first minister

Women ‘not at risk’ when transgender rapist housed in female-only jail

But despite mounting problems, the SNP has maintained a strong lead in polling.

Questions over husband’s loan to SNP

Ms Sturgeon was also recently questioned over her husband Peter Murrell’s £107,000 loan to the SNP.

She said she could not recall when she first found out about the loan, and insisted that “what he does with his resources is a matter for him”.

During a press conference earlier this month, Ms Sturgeon said: “The resources that he lent the party were resources that belonged to him.”

In December, it emerged that Mr Murrell, who is the party’s chief executive, made the loan in June 2021 to help with “cash flow” following a Holyrood election campaign.

Following the election in May, SNP MP Douglas Chapman quit as the party’s treasurer, claiming he was not given enough information about finances to do his job.

It came after three other members of the SNP’s finance and audit committee also resigned.

Police Scotland is also currently investigating what happened to an estimated £600,000 raised by party activists to be ringfenced for a second independence referendum campaign.

The SNP has denied any wrongdoing.

During Ms Sturgeon’s press conference announcing her resignation, a journalist asked: “Have you been or do you expect to be interviewed by the police who are looking into your party’s finances?”

The first minister replied: “I’m not going to discuss an ongoing police investigation. I wouldn’t do that on any issue and I’m not going to do it now.”

Ms Sturgeon has led the party and the country since 2014 after taking over from her predecessor, Alex Salmond, making her the longest-serving first minister since devolution to Holyrood.

Scottish independence will create partnership of equals in the UK, Sturgeon to say | UK News

Scottish independence will create a partnership of equals in the UK, Nicola Sturgeon will say in her speech to the SNP conference in Aberdeen today.

Ms Sturgeon will bring the three-day event to a close by telling delegates that the nations of the UK and the Republic of Ireland, will “always be the closest of friends, always be family”.

She is expected to say: “Scottish independence can reset and renew the whole notion of nations working together for the common good.

“England, Scotland, Wales, the island of Ireland. We will always be the closest of friends. We will always be family. But we can achieve a better relationship, a true partnership of equals, when we win Scotland’s independence.”

She is also expected to accuse the UK government of “Westminster’s denial of Scottish democracy”.

She will say: “Full frontal attacks on devolution. A basic lack of respect. It is these which are causing tension and fraying the bonds between us.”

Read more:
Scotland independence vote could be held next October, says Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon calls herself ‘real feminist’ after JK Rowling attack

The First Minister was criticised on Sunday for saying to the BBC: “I detest the Tories and everything they stand for.”

Speaking to journalists on Sunday, Ms Sturgeon was asked about any announcements she would make in her speech. She said she will have “more to say” on the cost of living crisis “and a host of other things as well”.

She also rejected claims there was a lack of policy commitments during the conference.

Liz Truss ‘utterly catastrophic’ for economy, says Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon | Politics News

Liz Truss’s premiership has been “utterly catastrophic” for the UK economy, according to Nicola Sturgeon.

Scotland’s first minister has also revealed she is yet to have a phone conversation with the prime minister, a month into her tenure.

Ms Sturgeon spoke to David Cameron within hours of taking office, and to Theresa May and Boris Johnson within days of their arrival at Number 10.

“It is just unusual that Liz Truss hasn’t decided to do the same thing,” she said. “Why is that the case? Lack of respect, arrogance, insecurity, who knows?”

Politics live: Every Tory MP in London could lose their seat, says poll

She added: “The decisions she’s taken in the first few weeks of her tenure as prime minister have been utterly catastrophic to the economy and to people across the country who are paying the price of her decisions in higher mortgage rates and borrowing costs.

“She hasn’t had a grip on government since she became prime minister. What’s happened in the mortgage market is pension funds came to the brink of collapse because of her lack of a grip.”

Speaking ahead of the Scottish National Party’s annual conference in Aberdeen, Ms Sturgeon told Sky News she will launch a communications campaign about careful energy consumption over the winter.

Number 10 has blocked a similar public information blitz to encourage people to use less energy, according to The Times.

“We’re in this position because we are part of a GB grid and are reliant on the UK government to take decisions”, she said.

‘Good for King to go to climate conference’

The first minister claimed she would not resign if her government loses a Supreme Court battle over whether the Scottish Parliament can hold another independence referendum – the court is due to hear the case on Tuesday.

And she said “it would be good” for King Charles to go to the COP27 climate conference, after reports the PM advised the monarch not to attend – which were denied by No 10.

“King Charles is somebody who has through his entire life has had a real concern for the environment,” she said.

“He’s head of state of many different countries in the Commonwealth, and I think it would be entirely appropriate should he want to be at COP27.”

Eight years into her role, Ms Sturgeon described being first minister as “a massive job with massive responsibilities”, adding: “It takes its toll on your personal life, your family life.”

JK Rowling calls Nicola Sturgeon ‘destroyer of women’s rights’ – as author backs protests over Scotland’s new trans law | UK News

JK Rowling has tweeted a picture of herself in a T-shirt that calls Scotland’s first minister a “destroyer of women’s rights”.

The author also gave her support to people protesting over a new gender recognition law in the country.

She posted: “I stand in solidarity with @ForWomenScot and all women protesting and speaking outside the Scottish Parliament. #NoToSelfID.”

The legislation aims to amend a previous law to make it easier for transgender people to be legally recognised as their chosen gender and get a new birth certificate.

They will no longer need to provide medical reports or evidence, and the minimum age of applicants for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) will be cut from 18 to 16.

A majority of MSPs on a parliamentary committee have recommended that the general principles of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill should be approved.

Scotland’s social justice secretary has said it won’t give trans people new rights but is about “simplifying and improving the process for a trans person to gain legal recognition”.

In a statement, Shona Robison said: “Our support for trans rights does not conflict with our continued strong commitment to uphold the rights and protections that women and girls currently have under the 2010 Equality Act. This bill makes no changes to that act.”

People protested against the planned law outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on Thursday.

Some carried signs reading “no one was born in the wrong body”, “humans can’t change sex” and “keep prisons single sex”.

Former Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said the committee “should listen, they should challenge, they should argue, they should probe”.

She added: “They should not dismiss, because in that world of dismissal, you shoot the messenger. You ignore the message, you make bad law and other people live with the consequences.”

Rowling has been criticised by some over her views on women’s rights and trans people but strongly denies being transphobic.

In January, police said they wouldn’t charge trans activists who tweeted photos showing her address – so-called “doxing”.