The Murrell membership deception was “more of a conspiracy than a conspiracy.”

The SNP leadership hopeful said he has known the former chief executive for many years and “there is never anyone I know who has ever intentionally misled or lied.”


Mr Murrell – the husband of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – resigned on Saturday with immediate effect.

It came just hours after we reported that members of the party’s ruling NEC had told him to resign by the end of the day or face a vote of no confidence.

His resignation followed that of the party’s communications chief, Murray Foote, who left on Friday and said headquarters had given him false information about membership numbers to pass to the media.

In February, the Sunday Mail claimed membership had fallen by 30,000 since 2021. At the time, Mr. Foote’s story was labeled “babbling.”

However, on Thursday the party announced that the total number of voting members was 72,186.

The latest publicly available figure showed that the party had 103,884 registered members at the end of 2021.

At their peak in 2019, they had 125,691 members.

The release of the figures came only after pressure was put on party headquarters by all three hopefuls vying to replace Ms Sturgeon.

In a statement released on Saturday, Mr Murrell said: “Responsibility for the SNP’s response to media inquiries about our membership number rests with me as Chief Executive. While there was no intent to mislead, I accept that this was the result.”

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Asked about the dispute during a campaign stop at the Gurdwara Guru Granth Sahib in south Glasgow, Mr Yousaf said: “It’s more bullshit than conspiracy, if I’m honest. I know Peter. I have known him for many years and he is never anyone I know who has ever intentionally deceived or lied.

“He is a good man who has now done the honorable thing because of course the result has been that the press has not been given the true facts about membership.

“He did the honorable thing. But let’s not distract from the fact that Peter was an exceptional servant of the SNP.”


Mr Yousaf said membership numbers should have been released at the start of the competition.

The health secretary said one of his “internal priorities” for the party was to “really make sure we’re as transparent as possible and actually communicating not just with the party hierarchy … but with the membership more broadly.”

Mr Yousaf told The Herald he didn’t know why so many people had left the SNP.

“I suspect there will be a number of reasons. One thing I noticed is that quite a few members want to rejoin. They realized their membership has expired and that will be part of it.

“I don’t doubt that there are things, like the fact that we’ve been talking about an independence process and not politics for too long, that may very well have affected it.

“Of course I’ve heard some people suggest that maybe it has something to do with that [Gender Recognition Reform] but I also know a lot of people who joined the party because of this issue and the stance we have taken.

“So these are issues that we need to get to the bottom of. As leader of the SNP I would certainly want to get to the bottom of this because I want to make sure we are a party that is growing and not shrinking.”

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He accepted that he had some responsibility for the declining numbers.

“I suspect that all of us within the party, especially those at higher levels, need to think really hard about why this happened. I don’t know the reasons people left and if I’m the leader of the SNP the first thing I want to do is try to understand, try to reach out to the members who may have left us to see if I can bring them back .

“Because I have a habit of wanting to expand our party rather than further reducing it.”

He said there was no reason to pause the contest: “I have not seen any credible or tangible evidence of anything wrong with the integrity of the ballot.”

Mr. Yousaf approached the congregation in the Gurdwara and asked them to include him in their prayers.

“I pray wherever I can get them. This job can be quite difficult at times. So I hope you can share your thoughts and prayers with me,” he said. The Murrell membership deception was “more of a conspiracy than a conspiracy.”

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