FIRST Minister Humza Yousaf has spoken after the SNP former chief executive, Peter Murrell, was charged in connection with allegations of embezzlement.

Murrell, who was the party’s chief executive for more than two decades, was arrested by police on Thursday morning, questioned throughout the day, and charged in the evening.

Murrell, the husband of former first minister Nicola Sturgeon, is facing allegations of embezzling party funds amid a three-year police probe into SNP finances, dubbed Operation Branchform.

Speaking to the media from Bute House on Friday, Yousaf said the latest development in the police investigation was “a really serious and concerning matter”.

The SNP leader went on: “All of those people who have known Peter Murrell for a number of years within the SNP and indeed across Scottish politics will be shocked.

“Now, there is an ongoing investigation. We've got to allow the police and indeed the crown to do their job, just as I've got a job to do as First Minister.

“That job, of course, is ensuring that I support households throughout the cost of living crisis, ensuring that we cut waiting times in the NHS, ensuring we support businesses, ensuring that I advance the cause of independence. That's the job that I'm focused on.”

Asked when he was first made aware of the charge against Murrell, Yousaf said it had been only when the police issued a statement.

The First Minister also confirmed that Murrell (below) had resigned his party membership.

The National: Peter Murrell arrives at his home in Uddingston on Thursday after being charged in connection with embezzlement of SNP funds (Robert Perry/PA)

The former chief executive was first arrested, questioned, and released without charge in 2023. Nicola Sturgeon and former SNP party treasurer Colin Beattie were also arrested, questioned, and released without charge around the same time.

Asked if Sturgeon and Beattie remained members of the SNP, Yousaf said: “They do.

“Their circumstances, as far as I have seen in the latest developments, haven't changed.”

A spokesperson for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) said previously: “Senior professional prosecutors from COPFS and an Advocate Depute are working with police on this ongoing investigation.

“It is standard practice that any case regarding politicians is dealt with by prosecutors without the involvement of the Lord Advocate or Solicitor General. All Scotland’s prosecutors act independently of political interference.

“As is routine, to protect the integrity of ongoing investigations, we do not comment in detail on their conduct.”

READ MORE: 'A shock': SNP and Tories issue statements after Peter Murrell charged by police

Police Scotland said, in a statement issued on Thursday evening: "A 59-year-old man has today, Thursday, April 18, 2024, been charged in connection with the embezzlement of funds from the Scottish National Party.

"The man, who was arrested at 9.13am today and had previously been arrested as a suspect on April 5, 2023, was charged at 6.35pm after further questioning by Police Scotland detectives investigating the funding and finances of the party.

"A report will be sent to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in due course.

"The man is no longer in police custody.

"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.”