Nicola Sturgeon's husband Peter Murrell has resigned as the Scottish National Party (SNP)'s chief executive
Edinburgh (AFP) - The husband of Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon resigned as the head of the ruling Scottish National Party on Saturday after a row over the party’s membership numbers.
Peter Murrell, 58, the SNP’s chief executive, departs a month after Sturgeon’s shock resignation as Scotland’s first minister.
“Responsibility for the SNP’s responses to media queries about our membership number lies with me as chief executive,” Murrell said.
“While there was no intent to mislead, I accept that this has been the outcome. I have therefore decided to confirm my intention to step down as chief executive with immediate effect.”
Murrell’s resignation comes after the SNP’s head of communications quit on Friday after it emerged that he had been told to deny reports that the SNP had lost 30,000 members.
The party was forced to confirm the fall in paid-up support after the three candidates competing to take over from Sturgeon asked Murrell to release the information.
On Thursday, the SNP confirmed membership had fallen from 103,884 in 2021 to 72,186 as of February 15.
Murrell has led the SNP for nearly 25 years. He and Sturgeon married in Glasgow in 2010.
Sturgeon said in February that she lacked the “energy” to carry on and that she would step down after eight years at the helm.
- Gender reform row -
Sturgeon has been party leader and Scotland’s first minister since 2014.
She faced a huge backlash after pushing through legislation allowing anyone over 16 to change their gender without a medical diagnosis.
The law would have allowed one rapist – who switched from male to female after being convicted – to serve a prison sentence in an women-only facility.
After uproar over the rapist’s case, the UK government used an unprecedented veto to block the SNP’s proposed law.
Sturgeon had also been pushing for an independence referendum for Scotland, arguing that the UK-wide Brexit referendum of 2016, which led to the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, should allow for a fresh consultation of Scottish opinion.
But the UK government rejected that argument, and Britain’s Supreme Court in November sided with London, leaving the SNP with no obvious course to achieve independence at the ballot box.
The three candidates in the running to take over from Sturgeon are current finance minister Kate Forbes, 32, health minister Humza Yousaf, 37, and Ash Regan, a 38-year-old former minister.
The new leader is set to be announced on March 27.