Nicola Sturgeon ‘can’t recall’ when she found out husband had lent £100,000 to SNP

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 6: First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon answers questions on Scottish Government issues, during a press conference at St Andrews House on Monday February 6, 2023 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Jane Barlow-Pool/Getty Images)

Nicola Sturgeon has said she “can’t recall” when she found out that her husband had lent more than £100,000 to the SNP to help it address “cashflow issues”.

The First Minister claimed that the sum, which Peter Murrell – who is also chief executive of the SNP – gave to the party as an interest-free loan was “his resources” as she was asked about the “unusual” financial arrangement.

However, she declined to categorically state that she had not been a part owner of all or some of the cash lent to the party she leads.

Ms Sturgeon was challenged over the loan after she published her tax returns, which suggest she has no significant income beyond her salary as First Minister – which stood at £140,496 in 2021-22.

Mr Murrell, who earns around £80,000 per year, lent the SNP £107,620 in May 2021, a fortnight after the Scottish Parliament elections, filings with the Electoral Commission show.

The watchdog was not notified of the loan until August last year, with the SNP originally claiming it did not believe it had to disclose the details of the arrangement.

Of the loan, £47,620 was repaid in two payments in August 2021 and the following October, meaning £60,000 original interest-free balance remains outstanding, according to the most recent public disclosures.

Ms Sturgeon claimed on Monday that she could not remember when she first became aware of the loan, but insisted it was a matter for Mr Murrell.

“My husband is an individual and he will take decisions about what he does with resources that belong to him in line with that,” she said. “I’m standing here as First Minister and that is what I’ll answer for.

“I can’t recall exactly when I first knew that [Mr Murrell had made the loan], but what he does with his resources is a matter for him. The resources that he lent to the party were resources that belonged to him.”

Challenged over whether the cash was solely Mr Murrell’s, Ms Sturgeon said the loan came from “his resources”.

The formulation of words would leave open the possibility that Ms Sturgeon jointly owned some or all of the money, as jointly-owned resources could still be accurately described as belonging to Mr Murrell.

The Scottish Tories have described the loan arrangement as “highly unusual” and urged the SNP to give a detailed explanation of why the leader’s husband was personally lending his employer such a large sum of money.

A separate police investigation, into whether £600,000 in donations solicited from independence supporters for a referendum that never happened was misused by the SNP, remains ongoing.

Ms Sturgeon released her tax returns on Monday, after initially promising to do so in 2016. She is entitled to a salary of £163,229, but SNP ministers have voluntarily frozen their pay since 2009.

She said: “These documents show clearly that my sole source of income is my job as First Minister - the office which I have the immense privilege of holding. I hope other party leaders – including the Prime Minister – will follow suit in an effort to promote transparency in public office.”