Peter Morrell, husband of Nicola Sturgeon, has resigned as chief executive of the SNP with immediate effect amid demands from within the party for him to step down – with rivals vying to replace her as leader.
Morrell, 58, announced his resignation on Saturday after a group of SNP governing body members launched a bid to sack him.
Reportedly, the majority of the ruling National Executive Committee members were willing to support a motion of no confidence in the CEO if he did not head voluntarily.
The party is facing political turmoil after Nicola Sturgeon, 52, announced her intention to step down as first minister and leader of the Scottish National Party last month.
His resignation follows the departure of the SNP’s media chief Murray Foote on Friday amidst Dispute over party membership numbers.
Nicola Sturgeon’s husband Peter Morell has resigned as chief executive of the Scottish National Party
Mr. Morrell has served as CEO of SNP for the past 20 years
Mr Foot said that after speaking to party headquarters, he issued responses to the media that had “serious issues” and later determined there was a “serious barrier” to his role.
He was reportedly previously told by Mr Morrell to deny claims that SNP membership had fallen by 30,000 as ‘inaccurate’ and ‘nonsense’ – and accused of unwittingly providing false membership figures to a journalist.
On Thursday, the party revealed that its membership, as of February 15, amounted to 72,186 members, after declining from 103,884 in 2021.
The figures only came to light after the party was accused of a lack of integrity and transparency, including by those running to replace Ms Sturgeon.
There were also multiple protests by SNP members that the leadership contest to decide Lady Sturgeon’s replacement was being overseen by her husband.
Just before Morrell announced his resignation, a senior member of the SNP’s governing body told Sky News: “The responsibility stops with Peter… He shouldn’t have thrown a junior staffer under the bus.”
Members questioned Morel’s role in the contest, given his wife’s position as party chair, which is set to see the election of a new leader on March 27.
Mr. Morrell has been the CEO of the party for over 20 years.
In a statement, Mr Morrell said: “Responsibility for SNP responses to media inquiries about our membership number rests with me as CEO.
While there was no intent to mislead, I accept that this was the result.
Therefore, I have decided to confirm my intention to step down as CEO with immediate effect.
I did not plan to confirm this decision until after the election of the leadership.
However, as my future had become a distraction from the campaign, I concluded that I should now stand down, so that the party could concentrate fully on issues concerning the future of Scotland.
The election contest is conducted by the National Secretary and I have had no part in it at any time.
I am very proud of what has been achieved in my tenure as CEO and of the role I have played in ensuring the electoral success the party has enjoyed for nearly two decades.
Winning the 2014 National Elections is a testament to the skills of the dedicated and talented HQ team I have been privileged to lead.
They give their all to the party and the cause of independence and I thank them for that.
I have worked for independence my whole life and will continue to do so, albeit in a different capacity, until it is achieved – and I firmly believe that independence is now closer than ever.
The SNP is in political turmoil following the shock resignation of Nicola Sturgeon last month
In a letter to Peter Morrell (pictured with his wife Sturgeon), SNP CEO who is also Ms Sturgeon’s husband, Ash Regan, who hopes to lead, said: A transparent, fair and equitable process”
Those who ran to replace Nicola Sturgeon quickly welcomed the news.
Three candidates – Kate Forbes, Ash Regan and Hamza Yusuf – are in the hunt to be the next defenders of Scottish independence.
Voting is already taking place and closes at 12 noon on March 27.
The SNP’s leadership candidate, Kate Forbes, admitted today that there was “extraordinary turmoil” in the party.
On Saturday, Forbes released an open letter to SNP members who have yet to cast a vote.
But she herself got into trouble after telling the media that she was going to vote against allowing same-sex marriage because of her conservative religious beliefs.
She also said that she believed it was “wrong” to have a child when she was unmarried.
Forbes later apologized and said it would not seek to overturn laws that had already been won.
She told members on Saturday: “Many of you, like me, will be hurt and bewildered by the extraordinary turmoil in our party over the past days.
“If anyone had any doubt that this must be an election to transform the SNP, recent events and resignations underscore the core message of my campaign: continuity will not kill it.”
She continued: ‘I love the Scottish National Party, and I am passionate about Scotland’s future as an independent, fair and rich country.
A few years ago, the SNP was rocked by scandal and I was asked to step up and deliver the budget with only a few hours’ notice.
I did it for my party and for the people of this country. This is the sign of who I am. I will not shy away from hard times.
Instead I find the solution and give it my all.
Hamza Yusuf, Kate Forbes and Ash Reagan all hope to become the next leader of the SNP
“I have a great deal of respect for the other candidates, but I am the only candidate who can really make a difference as first minister.”
Ms. Forbes, who was on maternity leave from her government position as finance minister, pledged to reform the party and committed herself to an independent review of membership and finances.
Ash Regan, 49, another candidate in the race, tweeted about the report that members of the National Election Commission were calling for Mr. Morrell to go.
On hearing the news of his resignation she said: “Eight years ago was the point at which it was unacceptable for the husband of a party leader to be CEO.
I am heartened to see the party’s democratic foundations now asserting their proper function.
The SNP is more than capable of surviving, as long as we stick to our roots, and live up to the values of our members.
Accountability, transparency, modernity and accessibility are our foundations.
Every time we believe we have fulfilled our ability to overcome a challenge, we can look into our guiding lights, and know that our potential may be unlimited. I will lead the strongest SNP, together for #Scotland.
I wrote a letter earlier
Fellow leadership candidate Hamza Yusuf, now Minister of Health and Social Care, addressed Mr Foot’s departure on Friday.
He said Mr. Foote “has been fantastic since joining the media team at SNP” and that he will be “greatly missed”.
Mr. Yusuf added: “Reforming HQ operations has been a key part of my campaign. With the new party leadership must come a new approach to our HQ operation.
He made headlines this week next An embarrassing gaffe saw him asking Ukrainian refugee women where “all the men” were. – only to be told that they are all fighting against Russia.
This is a breaking news story and is being updated.
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