Full investigation timeline after Sturgeon's arrest in connection with SNP finances probe

Former Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Former Scotland first minister Nicola Sturgeon resigned earlier this year. Credit: PA

Former Scotland first minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has been arrested by police investigating the party’s finances.

Police Scotland confirmed the arrest on Sunday, June 11, saying she is in custody and being questioned by detectives.

In the hours following the arrest, the force confirmed she had been released without charge pending further investigation.

A spokesperson for Ms Sturgeon said she is cooperating with the investigation.

An investigation into the party’s finances has been ongoing since July 2021.

Peter Murrell was arrested in April 2023 as part of the ongoing investigation into the SNP’s finances Credit: Andy Buchanan/PA

Full SNP investigation timeline

May 2021: SNP party treasurer Douglas Chapman resigns from the role, saying he had not been given enough information to do his job.

Senior figures in the party, including Ms Sturgeon, later dispute his assessment. Joanna Cherry, a vocal internal critic of the party’s leadership, also resigns from her role on the national executive committee (NEC).

July 2021: The investigation – dubbed Operation Branchform – begins. Police Scotland confirms it is investigating after seven complaints are made around donations to the SNP.

Former SNP treasurer Douglas Chapman stood down in April 2021 saying he did not have enough information to do his job Credit: UK Parliament/PA

This followed allegations that £600,000 raised for campaigning towards Scottish independence was diverted elsewhere.

Earlier, the police force said they were assessing a fraud allegation relating to £600,000 of funds “to determine if an investigation is required”.

The party said that “all sums raised for independence campaigning will be spent on independence campaigning”.

August 2021: As the party’s annual accounts are published, treasurer Mr Beattie acknowledges there had been “concern” about transparency over independence-related appeals that had raised more than £600,000.

In a section of the accounts, Mr Beattie discussed money raised by the referendum-related appeals since 2017.

Colin Beattie resigned as SNP treasurer following his arrest. Credit: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament/PA

He said that £666,953 had been raised up to the end of 2021, with a total of £51,760 expenditure applied to this income.

The money was “earmarked” through internal processes, he said, though the accounts did not officially record a separate sum.

December 2022: It emerges that Mr Murrell had loaned the party £100,000 in June 2021.

The party says this is to help with a “cash flow” issue after the election that year.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The resources that he lent the party were resources that belonged to him.”

Nicola Sturgeon resigned in early 2023 Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

February 15, 2023: Nicola Sturgeon announces her resignation as first minister, saying it was not related to short-term pressures, but because she knew in her “head and heart” the time was right to go.

During her press conference, she is asked if she expected to be interviewed in relation to the investigation, and she says she does not.

March 18: Former SNP chief executive, and Ms Sturgeon's husband, Peter Murrell, resigns.

His resignation comes during a row over the party’s membership numbers, which also led to media chief Murray Foote stepping down.

Membership numbers had dropped by about 30,000 in the last year, something the party previously denied.

March 29: Following a brief leadership contest, Humza Yousaf is appointed to replace Ms Sturgeon as First Minister and SNP leader.

Humza Yousaf defeated Ash Regan and Kate Forbes to lead the SNP. Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

April 5: Peter Murrell is arrested as police search his home in Glasgow as well as the SNP’s headquarters in Edinburgh. He was released without charge, pending further investigation, the same day.

April 9: A luxury camper van is seized by police investigating the party’s finances. It is thought to be worth around £110,000.

April 18: SNP treasurer Colin Beattie is arrested in connection with a police investigation into the party’s finances, and is later released without charge pending further investigation.

April 22: Stuart McDonald is appointed as the SNP’s new treasurer. The MP, who represents Cumbernauld, Kirkintilloch and Kilsyth, says it will be a “difficult and challenging time” for the party.

May 3: The SNP appoint the AMS Accountant Group, after the party's previous auditors Johnston Carmichael stood down in September 2022.

The party was subsequently able to file accounts prior to a crucial deadline which may have seen the Westminster group miss out on £1.2 million worth of funding.

June 11: Ms Sturgeon is arrested in connection with the ongoing probe into the SNP's finances. She “voluntarily” arranged with Police Scotland to be questioned as part of the investigation into the party’s finances, a spokesperson says.

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