For almost a decade Peter Murrell and Nicola Sturgeon have been the husband and wife team in charge of the SNP.

But now Ms Sturgeon, who became both SNP leader and Scottish First Minister in 2014, is stepping down from those roles, while the contest to replace her has divided the party and seen her husband resign in dramatic fashion.

Mr Murrell, 58, who has been party chief executive since 1999, was responsible for the day-to-day running of the SNP, which at one time was Britain’s second largest party.

That job meant Mr Murrell was one of the most influential figures in Scottish politics, despite never being an elected politician.

Peter Murrell is resigning with immediate effect (Andy Buchanan/PA)

However, he announced his resignation with immediate effect on Saturday amid controversy over the party’s membership numbers and transparency.

It comes almost a quarter of a century after Mike Russell, the current SNP chairman, became the party’s chief executive.

Previously, Murrell worked in the constituency office of former SNP leader Alex Salmond.

Mr Murrell married Ms Sturgeon, then deputy leader of the SNP and Scottish deputy first minister, in 2010, with then first minister Mr Salmond among the guests.

Ms Sturgeon married Mr Murrell in July 2020 in a ceremony at Glasgow's Oran Moor (Danny Lawson/PA).

Ms Sturgeon married Mr Murrell in July 2020 in a ceremony at Glasgow’s Oran Moor (Danny Lawson/PA).

Mr Murrell is considered by many to have been instrumental in turning the party’s fortunes around, helping to modernize the SNP’s operations.

While membership has fallen from a peak of around 125,000 achieved in 2018, to a recently revealed total of 72,186, the party remains easily the largest in Scotland.

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And under the leadership of Mr Murrell and Ms Sturgeon, the SNP has cemented its electoral dominance, holding power at Holyrood since 2007 and winning every election north of the border since.

However, critics of Ms Sturgeon’s SNP both inside and outside the party have long questioned whether it is appropriate for the same couple to hold the key roles of leader and chief executive.

Questions have been asked about whether the SNP had put too much power in the couple's hands (Jane Barlow/PA)

Questions have been asked about whether the SNP had put too much power in the couple’s hands (Jane Barlow/PA)

A hearing at Holyrood into the handling of harassment allegations against Mr Salmond saw Mr Murrell’s role come under further scrutiny.

At one point he was accused of giving contradictory evidence to a Holyrood committee investigating the Scottish Government’s mishandling of harassment allegations against Mr Salmond.

Questions have also been asked about £600,000 donated to the SNP for the independence campaign, with Police Scotland confirming it was investigating last year.

Mr Murrell meanwhile lent the party £107,620 to help with cash flow in June 2021 following the most recent Scottish Parliament election, with reports last year that half of this cash would be repaid by October 2021.


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