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by Kirsteen Paterson
04 May 2023
Murray Foote: SNP investigation could have 'serious consequences' for Police Scotland

Police at the home of Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell

Murray Foote: SNP investigation could have 'serious consequences' for Police Scotland

Former SNP spin doctor Murray Foote has warned of "serious consequences" if the Police Scotland probe into SNP finances ends without charge.

Operation Branchform has seen a raid on the party's Edinburgh headquarters and a forensics tent set up outside the front door of the home shared by former first minister Nicola Sturgeon and her husband Peter Murrell.

The inquiry centres around party finances during the time that Murrell was SNP chief executive.

He stepped down earlier this year after misleading claims about SNP membership figures were circulated. Foote, the former editor of the Daily Record, quit as its head of communications over the same row.

Writing in that newspaper today, Foote compares the investigation to the failed Rangers prosecution.

It was found to be a "malicious" by the Crown Office and more than £51m in public money has been paid out to those wrongly arrested in the course of the investigation.

It's inconceivable the authorities would be so cavalier

Murrell and former SNP treasurer Colin Beattie MSP were both arrested in the course of Operation Branchform.

Foote wrote that, if the probe - which has seen a campervan impounded and pen purchases questioned - is a "wild goose chase" this will "have serious consequences for the investigating authorities".

He stated: "Given the grim spectacle at the house Peter Murrell shares with Nicola Sturgeon and at the party HQ, it's inconceivable the authorities would be so cavalier without slam dunk evidence, right?

"Not necessarily. One word counters that assumption: Rangers."

If the operation has been "spectacularly misjudged" then "the reputational cost will be far more substantial than the cash spent on manpower", Foote wrote.

The comments follow concerns raised by Noel Dolan, a former special adviser to Sturgeon, who called the police response "very heavy handed" and "completely over the top".

The investigation is ongoing

He said: "Once this case is over the way Police Scotland has handled this matter will have to be scrutinised by the parliament."

A spokesperson for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said it will "continue to work with police in this ongoing investigation", adding: "It is standard practice that any case regarding politicians is dealt with by prosecutors without the involvement of the law officers."

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: "As the investigation is ongoing we are unable to comment further."

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