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by Margaret Taylor
17 March 2023
SNP membership has plummeted by 40 per cent since 2019, party confirms

SNP chief executive Peter Murrell was pressed on membership numbers in a letter from Ash Regan

SNP membership has plummeted by 40 per cent since 2019, party confirms

The SNP has confirmed that just over 72,000 members are eligible to vote in the contest to replace Nicola Sturgeon as party leader, with numbers falling by more than 40 per cent from their 2019 high of 126,000.

Pressure has been mounting on the party to release details on its membership, with leadership hopeful Ash Regan yesterday demanding on behalf of herself and rival Kate Forbes that chief executive Peter Murrell – Sturgeon’s husband – confirm the numbers.

The party initially refused to comply, saying that information regarding turnout, the number of votes cast, and how those votes translate to a proportion of the membership would be published at the end of the election process.

However, it has today confirmed that 72,186 members are eligible to take part in the ballot.

That number does not include anyone who joined the party after the cut-off date of February 15, but represents a significant fall over the last two years.

In the party’s accounts for the year to December 2021 – the most recent that are available – its membership is recorded as 103,884. That was down from a high of 125,691 in 2019, which came after a steep rise in the wake of the 2014 independence referendum. At the time of that vote, party membership stood at 25,642.

A spokesperson for the party said that despite the recent fall – which equates to a dip of 31 per cent since 2021 and of 43 per cent since 2019 – the SNP “remains the biggest – and indeed the only mass membership – party in Scotland”.

They added that membership numbers “fluctuate month by month and day by day depending on a range of circumstances”, with the cost-of-living crisis affecting its member roll in 2022.

Yesterday Regan urged Murrell to share the information “as soon as possible” to “demonstrate the SNP's commitment to democratic values and principles”.

Her campaign team today released a statement saying the fact the party has provided the figures so quickly shows she “is the candidate who gets things done and brings integrity to the SNP”.

Regan added: “The SNP has a tradition of attracting independent minded and smart people who work together for Scotland.

“We've lost some good people and I want to see us build our membership numbers and attract people back to the party. The SNP I lead will recognise the hard work and dedication of our activists."

Voting in the election to replace Sturgeon as SNP leader opened on Monday, with party members each having a single transferrable vote.

As well as former community safety minister Regan, the role is being contested by business secretary Forbes and health secretary Humza Yousaf.

After Regan sent her letter to Murrell, Yousaf's campaign manager Neil Gray – the culture minister – said his candidate was also calling for transparency around the party's membership stats.

"Yesterday, Humza's campaign team also asked for the figures to be published and sought assurances this would be done as soon as possible," he said.

Forbes, meanwhile, demanded that an independent auditor be brought in to oversee the vote, with her campaign manager Michelle Thomson saying that “concerns have been raised in various quarters about the integrity of the ballot processes”.

The ballot will remain open until noon on March 27, with the winner expected to be announced soon after.

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