SHOCKWAVES rippled through Scotland when news of Peter Murrell’s arrest broke earlier this month – throwing into the limelight a powerful man who had managed to keep a relatively low profile despite his position at the very top of Scottish politics for more than a decade.

While some in the party see the arrest – which resulted in Murrell’s release without charge – as the beginning of a protracted decline in the SNP’s fortunes, others are privately bullish, believing the party’s ability to shrug off scandal will endure.

MPs – whose seats are on the line as early as next autumn – claimed the paucity of options facing the Scottish electorate at the next General Election made them they would be returned when the country next goes to the polls.

'Confidence is high' 

Some of those who spoke with this paper read from the same hymn sheet which predicted the right-wing messaging of Labour under Keir Starmer, designed to claw back support in its former English heartlands, will repulse voters north of the Border.

READ MORE: SNP MPs claim membership 'up' amid police probe into party finances

One said: “The confidence within the SNP group at Westminster is high.

“Nothing’s changed, there’s no opposition. Labour have nothing to offer, the Conservatives will never get in in Scotland.”

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Another said: “This is all something of a sideshow to the real story, the ongoing campaign for Scotland to become a self-governing independent country, so that’s the big picture and despite the travails of the SNP and the soap opera that appears to be playing out with the former leadership, people want Scotland to become an independent country, so we will get our act together and we will provide again political leadership for that ambition.”

They added: “While Labour remain so doggedly the party of the Union, the party of the British establishment I think people will choose the SNP but I accept people’s faith in us will have been shaken a wee bit and we need to rebuild that and we need to do that with honesty, humility and transparency and we will.”

But one SNP councillor sounded the alarm, warning: “It’s really incumbent on us to get our shit together quickly.”

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And they claimed any dent to the party’s electoral chances essentially doomed the campaign for independence, arguing: “If we’re being honest, there really is no other vehicle to independence. If the SNP’s not in government there’s no chance of independence.”

But another local government figure, from a different council area said: “It has nothing to do with the case for independence, if the SNP has issues to resolve they will resolve them.

“If you think of the number of scandals the Tories have had, nobody’s suggesting that these things are fundamentally connected with the case for the Union or the case for independence – they’re not.”

Reform and rebuilding? 

The question of “rebuilding” trust in the party, undoubtedly shaken in some quarters by the images of “CSI-style tents” outside the family home of Murrell and Nicola Sturgeon, is thorny.

Some within the party want to reform its internal structures “straight away” while others cautioned against “knee-jerk reactions” to an ongoing police investigation.

The SNP is ostensibly run by a group of members called the National Executive Committee (NEC). Some within the party dispute this, claiming the party has, in recent years, been run by a “very small group of people at the top”.

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One SNP MSP said this group were Murrell, Sturgeon, ex-deputy first minister John Swinney, and former top aide Liz Lloyd, with the NEC reduced to a “mere cypher, not even a rubber stamp”.

READ MORE: Peter Murrell released without charge pending further investigation

Others told the Sunday National there was a “culture of secrecy” within the party and claimed there was a “lack of oversight” on decision-making, which they argued resulted in the embarrassing saga surrounding the SNP’s auditors – who quit in September last year.

First Minister Humza Yousaf admitted last week he had been unaware accounting firm Johnston Carmichael had dropped the party as a client until he took over as leader.

The party remain without auditors despite a looming deadline to submit their double-checked accounts to the authorities – or face the threat of losing more than £1m in public funds to aid running the party.

An MSP said the crisis engulfing the party’s finances – which the SNP have downplayed – posed a double threat to the party.

The SNP politician said: “How can we expect people to donate money to a party where there are such fundamental and serious questions hanging over the finances that party?

“So that’s a practical point and the political point is how can Humza [Yousaf] effectively get on with the job as no doubt he’s desperate to do, without this nagging away at him all the time because it will be in the press almost every week there will be new revelations.”

Where does indy go from here? 

Despite this, some in the party remain optimistic, not only about their electoral chances but the push for independence.

And some are pointing the finger at a hostile media fanning the flames and accusing police officers of putting on a show unnecessarily, with one MP quipping: “There’s been mass murders that didn’t get this much police attention.”

They added: “The people of Scotland aren’t daft, we’ve got one of the most politically engaged electorates of any country anywhere much of the comment on this stuff that I’ve seen has been hyper-partisan.

“There has been very limited informed comment. For the people who already hated the SNP this is the worst scandal ever. For the people who are pro-independence this is, ‘Well this is nonsense, this is a media stitch-up job’.”

Another, who will be defending their seat at the next General Election, said: “I know I’ve got a fight on my hands, we all do, but I am confident that we can win that because the arguments we’re making about Scotland’s future are far more compelling than those that Keir Starmer’s making.

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“That is going to be the big choice at the end of the day.”

And others have claimed the “disproportionate” scale of the investigation, which saw police descend on Sturgeon’s home early in the morning, complete with bully vans and forensic tents, might have inadvertently aided the party.

Two MPs touted recent “increases” in their local membership numbers – with one claiming some new sign-ups believed Murrell’s arrest was part of an MI5 sting. They stressed they did not believe the “conspiracy”. 

Police Scotland said there was no update to previous statements made on the ongoing investigation into the SNP.