Peter Murrell: who is Nicola Sturgeon’s husband and the SNP Chief Executive?

The SNP veteran is facing calls to resign after being in his current role for more than two decades

Monday, 12th October 2020, 12:28 pm
Updated Monday, 12th October 2020, 12:32 pm
Peter Murrell: who is Nicola Sturgeon’s husband and the SNP Chief Executive? (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Peter Murrell: who is Nicola Sturgeon’s husband and the SNP Chief Executive? (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

As he faces growing calls to resign from his position, the SNP’s chief executive Peter Murrell finds himself in the national spotlight over his involvement in the Alex Salmond affair and accusations that he ignored reports of bullying within the party.

A lifelong SNP supporter, Mr Murrell began working for the party in 1987 and in the decades since has risen to the top of the party’s backroom staff, as well as meeting and later marrying now First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.

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Despite being one of the most powerful men in Scottish politics for the last decade at least, Peter Murrell is not a particularly well-known figure.

Why is Peter Murrell facing calls to resign?

Scottish National Party Chief executive Peter Murrell is facing calls to resign amid accusations that he conspired against former SNP leader Alex Salmond after the former First Minister was charged with sexual assault last year.

A Holyrood inquiry tasked with looking at the Scottish Government's handling of the probe into sexual misconduct accusations made against Mr Salmond in 2018 has brought to light text messages sent by Murrell at the time.

One of the messages is reported to have read, “TBH the more fronts [Salmond] is having to firefight on the better for all complainers. So CPS action would be a good thing.”

Members of the inquiry committee are also said to be unsatisfied with the amount of evidence and documentation Mr Murrell has submitted.

Supporters of Mr Salmond are pointing to the messages as evidence that Mr Murrell was involved in a conspiracy to discredit Mr Salmond and prevent him from rivalling Ms Sturgeon for the SNP leadership. Mr Murrell has acknowledged that the messages were poorly worded, but said this was down to his “hurt and upset” over the news that Mr Salmond was being charged with sexual assault.

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Mr Salmond appeared in court earlier this year on charges of sexual assault and was acquitted on all counts.

Mr Murrell has also faced criticism over his failure to act on allegations of bullying within the SNP, made by party members, activists and councillors against SNP MSP, Kenny Gibson.

Members of the party allege that nothing was done following a letter being sent to Mr Murrell in June 2019 which accused the MSP of “aggressive and abrasive” bullying. They say attempts to follow up on the letter were ignored.

Who is Peter Murrell?

Born in Edinburgh in 1964 and a Glasgow university graduate, Peter Murrell has been a senior backroom figure in Scottish politics for several decades.

He has served as chief executive officer of the SNP since 1999, having taken over from Michael Russell, now the party’s Brexit Secretary.

Despite being credited by many with playing a vital role in the SNP’s success during his reign, Mr Murrell has attracted criticism from within his own party, with former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill saying he should “move on” from the role last year.

The 55 year old has also been criticised in the past over his salary, which, though undisclosed, is thought to be upwards of £100,000.

When did Peter Murrell marry Nicola Sturgeon?

Though Mr Murrell has his own senior role in the SNP, he is likely best known as first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s husband.

The pair married in July 2010, after meeting at an SNP youth camp organised by Murrell in 1988, and later starting a relationship in 2003.

Both have had strong links with former SNP leader Alex Salmond, whose constituency office both Ms Sturgeon and Mr Murrell worked in.

Questions have been raised over the suitability of a husband-and-wife both occupying such positions of power in politics, with one ‘SNP insider’ telling the New Statesman, “if this was a private company and you had a husband and wife as chair and chief exec, eyebrows would be raised”.

Responding to this concern prior to her taking over sole leadership of the party in 2014, Ms Sturgeon told The Herald, “I’ve been deputy leader for years while Peter’s been chief executive for 10 years. That’s not been an issue that’s given rise to any concern internally.”