PETER Murrell has been arrested in connection with the ongoing investigation into the funding and finances of the Scottish National Party.

Murrell, Nicola Sturgeon's husband and former chief executive of the SNP, has been arrested in connection with Operation Branchform on Wednesday morning.

The 58-year-old is in custody and is being questioned by Police Scotland detectives.

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First Minister Humza Yousaf spoke on the arrest and said it was a "difficult day" for the SNP. 

Officers are also carrying out searches at a number of addresses, including the former FM's residence and SNP HQ, as part of the investigation. A report will be sent to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Police Scotland said.

A force spokesperson said: "The matter is active for the purposes of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 and the public are therefore advised to exercise caution if discussing it on social media.

"As the investigation is ongoing we are unable to comment further."

Murrell resigned as SNP chief executive last month, a post he held since 1999, after a row over SNP membership numbers. He has been married to Sturgeon since 2010. 

We told how footage showed police officers and a forensics tent outside of the Sturgeon-Murrell home in Uddingston, South Lanarkshire.

A total of 10 uniformed officers were stationed outside of the former FM's home, with curtains and blinds drawn, on Wednesday morning. Police were later photographed searching the back garden of the home. 

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In the afternoon, six officers were filmed entering SNP HQ in Edinburgh as the force conducted searches in a "number of properties". 

Police Scotland launched a formal investigation into the SNP's finances in July 2021, after receiving complaints about how donations were used.

The probe centres around questions over how more than £600,000 raised for independence campaigning has been spent. 

Earlier on Wednesday morning, the SNP released a statement on the arrest.

A spokesperson said: “Clearly it would not be appropriate to comment on any live police investigation but the SNP have been co-operating fully with this investigation and will continue to do so.

“At its meeting on Saturday, the governing body of the SNP, the NEC, agreed to a review of governance and transparency – that will be taken forward in the coming weeks.”

FM Yousaf said it was a “difficult day” for the SNP following the arrest of Murrell, and said he was told "after the event". 

He told Sky News: “My reaction, as you’d imagine, much like anybody involved in the SNP, is that this is a difficulty for the party.

“But, again, I’d just reiterate and emphasise it’s so important for me not to comment on a live police investigation and be seen to prejudice that in any way, shape or form.”

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He continued: “I think there’ll be concern from the public but, again, there is a live police investigation under way and we will wait to see what comes at the conclusion of that police investigation.”

The FM added that he would not comment on a live police investigation.

“Of course, as party leader, I will know the financial state and health of the party," he said. 

“As I’ve already made clear, one of the first things I did was talking to our party lawyers around about the current live police investigation.

“I’ve never been an office bearer in the party, I’ve not had a role in the party finances.”

He added: “There’s an opportunity with new leadership to make sure we’re being transparent.”

Asked if the arrest would hurt the SNP in the polls or at a potential by-election, he said: “It certainly doesn’t do us any good.

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“People will have questions, there will be some concerns. Our party membership will have concerns too.

“What I can commit to as party leader is that we want to be absolutely transparent.”

The SNP raised a total of £666,953 through independence referendum-related fundraising appeals between 2017 and 2020.

Further questions were raised after the SNP's accounts showed it had just under £97,000 in the bank at the end of 2019, and total net assets of about £272,000.

It emerged last year that Murrell gave a loan of more than £100,000 to the SNP to help with a "cash flow" issue after the last election. The party had repaid around half of that amount by October last year. 

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie commented following the arrest of former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell.

She said: “This is a deeply concerning development and the Police Scotland investigation must be allowed to proceed without interference.”

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“We need Humza Yousaf and Nicola Sturgeon to urgently state what they knew and when," she added. 

Donald Cameron MSP, Tory shadow constitution secretary, said: “Senior SNP politicians, including Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf, must cooperate fully with the investigation into this very serious case and commit to openness and transparency.

“While there is an ongoing police investigation into the SNP’s finances, and given that a suspect has now been arrested, it is right that due process is followed and any potential wrongdoing investigated thoroughly by the police.”