NICOLA Sturgeon admitted the SNP “mishandled” the membership numbers row but added the loss of 30,000 from the party needs “perspective”.

Kicking off her last week as Scotland’s First Minister, Sturgeon was interviewed by ITV’s Loose Women ahead of a keynote speech in London on Monday afternoon.

Following the resignation of SNP communications chief Murray Foote on Friday, followed by SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, Sturgeon’s husband, the FM was quizzed on the row by the panel.

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Last week, it emerged that over 30,000 members had left the SNP since 2021. After SNP HQ briefed a previous report suggesting this was “drivel”, SNP leadership candidates Kate Forbes, Ash Regan, and Humza Yousaf joined calls for the full figure to be revealed.

On Thursday, it was announced that the SNP currently has 71,186 members, down from over 103,000 in 2021.

Speaking about the issue on Loose Women, and Murrell’s resignation, Sturgeon said: “He's been chief executive of the SNP for longer than I’ve been leader. He was willing to sit down to give a new leader the chance to have a new chief executive and has decided to take responsibility for that situation now and I think rightly.

“But we were asked a specific…we mishandled that situation.

The National: The FM was asked about the SNP membership figure rowThe FM was asked about the SNP membership figure row (Image: ITV)

“We were asked a specific question not, you know, what's the size of your membership, but have you lost up to those members because of x and y and a bigger one.

“These things are all opportunities to reflect.”

She disagreed with SNP president Mike Russell, who stepped in to take over the day-to-day running of the party on an interim basis following Murrell’s resignation and said almost immediately afterwards that the party was in a “tremendous mess”.

Sturgeon said the number of people in the SNP had “gone down from a very, very, very high point of membership”.

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She denied that the SNP was “in a mess” and said that the party was going through “growing pains”.

She added: “They are necessary but difficult.

“I’m stepping down from a party that hasn’t lost an election since 2010.”

Sturgeon said that parties usually go through a leadership contest like this when they've been "kicked out by voters", but she insisted this was not the current case for the SNP. 

She added: “I’ve won, my party has won rather, eight elections in my eight years as leader. So we’re actually in quite a strong position.

“But I wouldn’t be standing down if I didn’t think this was the right time for some change, renewal, refresh.

“I think the trick for my party is to do that while not throwing the baby out with the bath water and not losing the things that have made us so successful.”

Sturgeon was also asked if it had “sunk in” that she was heading into her final week as FM, with her last Cabinet meeting set for Tuesday, and final FMQs on Thursday.

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She said: “Probably not.

“It’s a big, big change and I think it will take a while for me to adapt to a very different way of living."

“I’ve never doubted I’ve taken the wrong decision,” she added.

While she said there had been a “mix of emotions” in recent weeks, the First Minister added: “The thing I can say with no hesitation is I have never doubted I have taken the right decision.”

She admitted she had been “subconsciously” considering her future in the role for “quite a while, certainly from the tail end of last year”.

The National: The FM said she saw Ardern's resignation and wished it was herThe FM said she saw Ardern's resignation and wished it was her

And Sturgeon recalled that when she saw Jacinda Ardern announce she was stepping down as New Zealand’s prime minister, she thought: “I wish that was me.”

She added: “I think that is when it went from the subconscious to the conscious. I then realised it was the right time for me.”

The outgoing FM insisted: “There is such a thing as being in frontline leadership politics for too long.

“And in a democracy, party, country, change is a good thing.”

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But she said this change “can be difficult, as my party is finding out just now, it can be very difficult”.

Sturgeon also categorically denied that her resignation had been prompted by the reaction to the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.

She said: “I regret we were not able to get that debate into a more rational space, I do regret that.

“But I don’t regret the legislation.”

The FM joked that following her resignation she will find out who “Nicola Sturgeon the person is” rather than the politician, adding that she “might find” she’s not very good at it.