Peter Morrell has resigned as chief executive of the Scottish National Party after admitting the media had been given false information about the number of members who had left the party in recent years.
An article stating that the SNP had lost 30,000 members in a few years was rejected by party headquarters but was later recognized as accurate when membership figures were revealed after being demanded by leadership contenders.
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When asked whether the distribution of the misleading numbers was a lie or a mistake, Hamza Yusuf said he did not believe it was a deliberate attempt to mislead.
He said: I think it was more of a conspiracy, if I’m being honest.
“I know Peter (Murrell), I have known him for many years and no one, as far as I know, has deliberately misled or lied.
“He’s a good guy who has now done an honorable job because the result was that the press didn’t give the real facts about the membership numbers.
“He did the honorable thing but let’s not ignore the fact that Peter was an exceptional SNP server.”
Youssef said he did not know why so many people left the party but wanted to understand their reasons.
Speaking during a visit to a Sikh Gurdwara in Glasgow’s south side, he said there were issues that some were concerned about.
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And about the reason for losing this large number of members, Youssef said: “I do not know the honest answer. I think there will be a number of reasons.
“One thing I pointed out was that a lot of members wanted to rejoin after their membership ended so that would be part of it.
“I don’t doubt there are issues like, for example, the fact that we’ve been talking about process rather than politics for a very long time.
“I heard it might have something to do with the GRR but I also know several people who joined the party because of this issue about the position we have taken.”
He added that government ministers should “consider” the loss of party members.
“I suspect all of us in the party, particularly those of us at a senior level, are going to have to think very hard about why this is happening. I don’t know why people are leaving and if I were the leader of the SNP one of the first things I would like to do is understand and connect with those Members who left us and take them back.”
He said he wanted the party to grow, adding, “I don’t want to see it shrink any further.”
After Ash Regan, one of the contenders, said the election should be paused, Yusuf said he disagreed, adding that he had seen “no credible or tangible evidence whatsoever that there was anything wrong with the integrity of the ballot.”
“I have absolute confidence in the integrity of the ballot,” he said.
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