Scotland’s former first minister and leader of the pro-independence Alba party, Alex Salmond, appeared outside the BBC headquarters in Edinburgh on Tuesday, expressing his sadness at the news of the arrest of Nicola Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell, the SNP executive. The police are investigating what happened to over £500,000 that was donated to the party to fund a second independence referendum campaign, which never materialised. The news was quickly shared by SNP MP Joanna Cherry, who resigned as a Westminster frontbencher over the party’s gender law reforms. Salmond, who fell out with Sturgeon over an investigation into his behaviour (in which he was cleared of wrongdoing), and claimed that the party had become “corrupt,” said that the cause of independence was still strong, and that both he and Alba were putting forward solutions.
Scotland’s Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf, insisted on Tuesday that Sturgeon’s departure as SNP leader and First Minister had nothing to do with Murrell’s arrest. Sturgeon announced her resignation last month, when the SNP was ahead in the polls, but weeks earlier in an interview, she had suggested that she had “plenty left in the tank.” Yousaf claimed that Sturgeon had been exhausted from tackling the pandemic over the past year and that most people could understand how wearing appearing every day at the daily briefings could be. Yousaf added that the party’s national executive committee had agreed to a review of governance and transparency, that they wanted “to be absolutely transparent,” and that “Nicola’s legacy stands on its own.”
Salmond and Sturgeon’s feud has been raging for years. Sturgeon took over as SNP leader and Scotland’s first minister when Salmond left office in 2014, and the two fell out over an investigation into Salmond’s behaviour when he was in office. In 2020, Salmond was acquitted of all charges in a high-profile trial. The subsequent rupture between the former friends led to the launch of Salmond’s Alba party, with the aim of achieving independence. The party has not managed to win any MPs so far, and it seems unlikely that it will do so in the next general election.