Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to sack her husband, Peter Murrell, as SNP chief executive after he admitted to sending WhatsApp messages appearing to back police action against Alex Salmond.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said Mr Murrell’s position was “completely untenable” following the revelation and urged him to quit.
Mr Murrell is understood to have confirmed he sent the electronic messages but regretted the way they were worded.
Sources familiar with the situation confirmed Mr Murrell has acknowledged he sent the messages, after the Daily Record reported the SNP chief executive had made the admission.
The chief executive of the governing party has admitted sending messages calling for the police to be pressured into action against their former boss, Alex Salmond. This is a shattering, extraordinary revelation and leaves Peter Murrell’s position as chief executive of the SNP completely untenable.”
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross
Last week Ms Sturgeon refused to give a direct answer when asked by Ruth Davidson at First Minister’s Questions if the WhatsApps were genuine.
During an uncomfortable exchange for the first minister, Ms Sturgeon said she did not think it was reasonable for her to be asked questions about things that “other people might or might not have done”.
Mr Ross said: “The chief executive of the governing party has admitted sending messages calling for the police to be pressured into action against their former boss, Alex Salmond.
“This is a shattering, extraordinary revelation and leaves Peter Murrell’s position as chief executive of the SNP completely untenable.
“We must now be told what Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Government ministers knew about these messages. Had they seen them? Did they know about them? Were they asked to pressure the police?
“Nicola Sturgeon has to take responsibility. This is her government, her party, and it’s up to her to do the right thing and immediately act.
“She oversees the actions of the SNP chief executive. There is nobody else to blame.”
Mr Ross added: “The First Minister must sack Peter Murrell or her judgement is gone.”
The SNP has been approached for comment.
The messages came to light when they were received by SNP MP Kenny MacAskill from an anonymous source.
The WhatsApps appear to have been sent after Mr Salmond had appeared in court charged with sexual offences. The former first minister was cleared of all charges earlier this year.
The timing of their sending was also during the month that a separate complaint was made about Mr Salmond to the Metropolitan Police, an investigation the London force later dropped.
The first WhatsApp message read: “Totally agree folk should be asking the police questions… report now with the PF on charges which leaves police twiddling their thumbs. So good time to be pressurising them. Would be good to know Met looking at events in London.”
The second message read: “TBH the more fronts he is having to firefight on the better for all complainers. So CPS action would be a good thing.”
The Daily Record suggested that Mr Murrell’s position on the first message is that he wanted individuals to direct any questions they had to the police.
Meanwhile, in the second he meant that all allegations should be investigated. But it is understood he feels he could have expressed himself better.
Botched internal inquiry
Mr MacAskill passed the messages to the Holyrood inquiry investigating the Scottish Government’s botched internal inquiry into harassment claims made against Mr Salmond. He also passed them to the Crown Office.
One line of inquiry will be whether these messages were part of a dossier passed on to Mr Salmond’s legal team by the Crown as part of the disclosure process in his recent criminal trial.
Scots law states an accused person and his legal representatives are allowed only to use the disclosed information for the purposes of conducting the criminal proceedings.
An SNP spokesperson said: “The Tories’ desperation to politicise matters before the committee is in extremely bad taste.
“Mr Murrell has fully addressed matters in his written evidence to the committee. The leaked extracts of his text messages have been deliberately taken out of context and are intended to misrepresent events.”