Nicola Sturgeon’s top spin doctor quits in series about SNP membership ‘lies’

Nicola Sturgeon’s top spin doctor quits in series about SNP membership ‘lies’

The uproar gripping the SNP deepened further on Friday after Nicola Sturgeons quit top spin doctor and blamed senior party members for the “lies” he personally encouraged.

Murray Foote, a former editor of the Daily Record, resigned as the SNP’s communications and research director in Holyrood after fiercely dismissing a report this week of a mass exodus of party members that proved correct.

The office that Mr Foote heads had also issued a series of misleading information to journalists about the number of SNP members following Ms Sturgeon’s resignation. Employees repeatedly suggested the total was around 100,000, when in fact it had dropped to just 72,186.

Mr Foote insisted he acted “in good faith and as a courtesy to colleagues at party headquarters” in giving “agreed party responses” to journalists.

He said it was now clear that there were “serious problems with those answers.”

Severe disability

He added: “Consequently, I came to the conclusion that this was a serious impediment to my role and I resigned from my position at the SNP Group in Holyrood.”

The resignation will raise further questions about the operation of the SNP headquarters under the leadership of Peter Murrell, the party’s chief executive and husband of Ms Sturgeon.

The party is already the subject of a long-running police probe for alleged misuse of donations for independence referendum campaigns that never took place.

Mr Foote announced his resignation just minutes after BBC Radio Scotland aired an interview with Alex Salmond in which the former First Minister blasted his former party for misleading the public about the membership that will choose the next First Minister.


Mr Salmond said while the exodus of members had been “disastrous” for the SNP, the damage to its reputation caused by policy mistakes and “lies” about the numbers had been even worse.

“More important than reduction and membership is the reduction in credibility,” Mr Salmond said. “The fact is that SNP membership has declined by probably more than 30,000 over the past year. And the fact is that the SNP lied about it.”

Mr Foote publicly claimed in February that a report in the Sunday Mail claiming the party had recently lost around 30,000 members was “wrong by around 30,000” and branded it “b——s “.

However, figures released by the party this week showed it had 72,186 members, down 31,698 from the figure previously released.

The SNP reluctantly agreed to release the figure only after leading candidates Kate Forbes and Ash Regan called for their release and expressed doubts about the electoral process overseen by Mr Murrell’s office.

Strong decline in membership

Ms Sturgeon’s controversial gender recognition reforms have been cited as a likely factor in the sharp decline in membership, with 10,000 resigning this year alone.

Liz Lloyd, Ms Sturgeon’s closest aide, also announced she would be leaving the Scottish Government with the departure of the First Minister.

Her announcement came just hours after Ms Regan raised concerns about Ms Lloyd’s role in supporting Humza Yousaf’s campaign at a meeting with John-Paul Marks, the Scottish Government’s senior mandarin.

Ms Lloyd is a taxpayer-funded SNP special adviser and a leading source close to Ms Regan to warn that her role in the leadership campaign was inappropriate as she would decide on her “potential new boss”.

Both Ms Regan and Ms Forbes would conduct a major behind-the-scenes purge of SNP figures in senior positions, while Mr Yousaf is expected to largely retain Ms Sturgeon’s staff.

It is understood that despite the release of membership numbers, Ms Forbes’ campaign has yet to be fully assured that the process to select a new leader will be fair.

Mr Salmond claimed the election was conducted “ailingly”, despite reports that former members are still receiving ballots.

concealing the decline

“Honestly, I doubt the SNP currently has 72,000 valid members,” he said. “I know the ailing process they have and that they have been silent about the decline in their membership. Those are facts.”

Scottish Tory MSP Russell Findlay said Mr Foote’s resignation exposed a “lazy SNP leadership” who had “deliberately lied to the press and public”.

He added: “We wish our best to Mr. Foote who has clearly been given false information and is the fall guy for the SNP hierarchy.”

An SNP spokesman said: “We are disappointed and saddened that Murray has felt the need to make this decision.

“He’s been a great colleague over the last few years and we wish him well in whatever he chooses to do next.”

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