Scotland Arrests, Releases Former First Minister

Published: 13 June 2023

Nicola Sturgeon SNP leaderNicola Sturgeon, former Prime Minister of Scotland. (Photo: Kenneth Halley, Wikimedia, License)

By Vinicius Madureira

Nicola Sturgeon, a prominent Scottish politician and former first minister, was arrested and then released without charge on Sunday as part of an ongoing investigation into the funding and finances of the Scottish National Party (SNP). The arrest was initially reported by the country’s police and later confirmed by OCCRP on Monday.

The investigation is centered on the fate of the equivalent of more than US$830,000 raised in 2017 by activists supporting Scottish independence. These funds were intended to be safeguarded, but there are suspicions that they may have been misappropriated.

Sturgeon, who spent seven hours in police custody before being released, took to Twitter on Sunday afternoon to express her shock and distress at finding herself in this situation, asserting her belief that she has not committed any offense.

This is not the first action taken against Sturgeon’s inner circle. Earlier this year, her residence and the headquarters of her political party in the Scottish capital were searched by police officers. During the search, Sturgeon’s husband and then party’s chief executive, Peter Murrell, was also detained for 11 hours before being released.

Police are investigating a loan the party allegedly made to Murrell of the equivalent of more than $110,000 in June 2021. The party denied any wrongdoing, according to The National.

In Scotland, the police can release a suspect temporarily, even after the initial arrest, in order to conduct a more thorough investigation. The understanding is that the suspect may be re-arrested at a later time if additional evidence or information is discovered.

Sturgeon, the longest-serving leader in Scotland’s semi-autonomous government, surprised the country’s political sphere when she announced her resignation in February. She cited a feeling of disconnection and an inability to lead her country toward independence as the reasons for her decision.