Arrested, released and back to work: Is Nicola Sturgeon helping or harming the SNP?

Nicola Sturgeon was given a platform at the Scottish Parliament to reaffirm her innocence, following her arrest as part of an investigation into SNP finances. Peter Smith reports

Back to work for the first time since being arrested, and back in front of the cameras.

Nicola Sturgeon has never hidden away from scrutiny, even in the toughest of times, and she is treating this no differently.

She's issued statements on Twitter just minutes after being released without charge from a police station.

She’s given a statement to cameras on her driveway.

Today she was given a platform in the Scottish Parliament to reaffirm her innocence to anyone who cares to listen.

There is an argument she should treat this crisis differently, though.

She has just been questioned by detectives for seven hours as a suspect in an ongoing investigation.

This investigation relates to money fundraised for a future independence referendum.

Nicola Sturgeon’s home was searched. As was the party HQ.

Sturgeon's husband and former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell and former party treasurer Colin Beattie were both arrested by police. Credit: PA

Her husband, the former SNP chief executive, was arrested, as was the party’s former treasurer - both were released without charge pending further investigation.

It would be understandable - morally and legally - if she were to keep her counsel on this one, simply telling journalists she is simply unable to comment.

Her husband hasn’t said a word since his arrest and release.

Instead, Nicola Sturgeon takes a different approach.

As an elected representative she feels she owes people an explanation and keeps repeating what is fast becoming her mantra: “I’ve done nothing wrong.”

Interestingly, when asked today if everyone else in the party is innocent, including her husband, she replied, “I can only speak for myself.”

She did ask people not to read too much into that, saying it was merely a statement of fact.

The problem for Nicola Sturgeon now is also a political one.

Former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaking to the media on her return to Holyrood after her arrest. Credit: PA

Upon resigning as first minister, Nicola Sturgeon told ITV News in an interview that she would not be a distraction from the back benches.

But some in her party say this ongoing drama is not helpful.

The polls would appear to back that up.

The SNP are falling in the polls. If seat projections come to pass, they will lose Scotland to Labour at the next general election - an extraordinary shift in the political landscape.

Nicola Sturgeon’s personal approval ratings have also plummeted into the negative for the first time in her career.

It begs the question: is she still an asset to the SNP and independence?

Does the SNP stand to benefit from her giving these impromptu media conferences to reaffirm her innocence?

Or is she in fact, doing more harm than good now?

Nicola Sturgeon says she will not step down from politics - and her successor is now accused of being weak in controlling this crisis.

Humza Yousaf has refused calls to suspend Ms Sturgeon from the party, even temporarily. Credit: PA

Humza Yousaf refuses to suspend her, ignoring calls from even some in his party to remove Nicola Sturgeon’s platform even temporarily while the police investigation is ongoing.

There’s even some sympathy from some in the opposition parties at Holyrood for his predicament - he just can’t find room to escape her shadow and stand on his own two feet as a leader without another Nicola Sturgeon-related drama coming at him.

The police investigation is also still ongoing. The next step will either see charges made, possibly leading to a criminal trial or trials.

If it all comes to nothing, police will have questions to answer about their tactics in this two-year investigation, including making such high-profile arrests.

Nicola Sturgeon is clear she is not going to go quietly. She sees no reason why she should because, as she keeps telling us, she “has done nothing wrong.”

It is of course within her rights to profess her innocence.

But as long as she does that, she continues to dominate the discourse in Scottish politics - for better or for worse.

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