Salmond claims Murrell and SNP 'systematically lied' over member stats

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Salmond claims Murrell and SNP 'systematically lied' over member stats <i>(Image: PA)</i>
Salmond claims Murrell and SNP 'systematically lied' over member stats (Image: PA)

ALEX Salmond has accused Nicola Sturgeon’s husband and SNP headquarters of having “systematically lied” about the party’s falling membership numbers.

The former First Minister, who previously accused Peter Murrell of plotting to ruin and even imprison him, made the claim on Times Radio this morning.

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Mr Murrell resigned with immediate effect as SNP chief executive on Saturday after it emerged his operation had misled the media over falling membership numbers.

SNP HQ also misled the party’s own head of communications at Holyrood, former Daily Record editor Murray Foote, prompting him to quit on Friday.

The party machine vehemently denied a Sunday Mail report in February that the membership had fallen by 30,000 despite it doing just that.

The true number only came out because of the SNP leadership contest, and pressure from the three candidates to have clarity on how many people would be voting in it.

The last published figure had been 103,884 at the end of December 2021.

By February this year that had fallen to 72,186.

Mr Murrell insisted on Saturday there had been "no intent to mislead" but  accepted "that this has been the outcome".

SNP president Mike Russell, who is now acting chief executive, admitted on Sunday that the party was in a “tremendous mess” and things had gone “spectacularly wrong”.

Asked on Times Radio if the same mess would have happened on his watch as SNP leader, Mr Salmond, now the leader of the Alba party, said: “No.”

He said: “I think by general acknowledgement, nine years ago, the SNP government was one of the most competent governments, certainly in Scottish history, and probably just about anywhere else, and that was generally acknowledged. That's no longer the case.

“The SNP were a highly respected political party, feared by our opponents, certainly, but respected as being a highly efficient political machine that had delivered extraordinary election success.

“Now, the election success has continued over the last eight years or so.

“But clearly, things have gone wrong, badly wrong, in SNP headquarters.”

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He said: “I think in more recent times, certainly the transgender debate alienated a substantial section of people who cared about women's rights, which is a lot of people.

“But I think the underlying reason for the decline of the SNP is the lack of perceived progress in getting to independence.

“Of course the more immediate issue is not whether 30,000 people left the SNP, but that Peter Murrell and the SNP organisation systematically lied about it.”

He said he thought Ash Regan had the best independence policy of the three contenders - fighting every election as a quasi referendum - but denied he was backing any of the three.

Asked why he thought the SNP’s membership had fallen, Mr Salmond  said a combination of reasons, with the key factor “the lack of progress in moving towards independence”.

READ MORE: Salmond claims Sturgeon's husband part of plot to 'imprison me'

Asked how to make progress on independence, Mr Salmond said the Yes movement needed to come together in a convention to decide the way forward. That would coincidentally give Alba a greater platform.

He said a convention “would be one of the moves that certainly any sensible person would make immediately [as SNP leader] to reunite the National Movement, which is a kind of prerequisite of taking on Westminster".

He said: “Your first job is to unite the independence forces, and then to take on and overcome your opponents in a democratic way, of course.

"That’s not just political parties, incidentally. There's a whole range of pressure groups, campaign organisations, thinktanks like Commonweal, who've done marvellous work in terms of exploring independence policies.

“These are the people you should be bringing together. And certainly from an Alba point of view, we'd be more than happy to participate in any independence convention.”

In February 2021, Mr Salmond accused Mr Murrell and others close to Ms Sturgeon of being part of a plot to destroy his reputation and even send him to jail.

He did so in a final submission to the Holyrood inquiry into how the Scottish Government bungled a probe into sexual misconduct claims made against him in 2018.

Mr Salmond had the probe set aside in a judicial review, showing it was “tainted by apparent bias”, a Government flaw that left taxpayers with a £512,000 bill for his costs.

He was later charged with sexual assault but cleared of all counts at a High Court trial.

In his submission, he said the evidence supported “a deliberate, prolonged, malicious and concerted effort amongst a range of individuals within the Scottish Government and the SNP to damage my reputation, even to the extent of having me imprisoned.

“That includes, for the avoidance of doubt, Peter Murrell ([SNP] Chief Executive), Ian McCann (Compliance officer) and Sue Ruddick (Chief Operating Officer) of the SNP together with Liz Lloyd, the First Minister’s Chief of Staff.”

Ms Lloyd announced on Friday she was leaving the government alongside Ms Sturgeon.

The SNP has been asked for comment.