There is now a “broad expectation” at Holyrood that former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will be questioned by police or even arrested in the coming days, a Scottish Tory politician has said. Murdo Fraser also believes the Scottish National Party (SNP) is facing “total collapse” as a result of fallout from the ongoing police probe into its finances. The SNP was plunged into crisis after the arrest of Peter Murrell, its former chief executive and Mrs Sturgeon’s husband, on April 5, in connection with Operation Branchform, an investigation into possible fundraising fraud.
This was followed by the arrest of Colin Beattie, MSP for Midlothian North and Musselborough, on April 18, with the 71-year-old subsequently resigning as the party’s Treasurer. Both were released without charge pending further investigations.
A YouGov poll published today, indicating a five percent drop in support compared with last month, has hinted at the negative impact recent revelations are having on the SNP.
And Mr Fraser, a member of the Scottish Parliament, himself a member of the Scottish Parliament, the party will pay a heavy price at the ballot box when Scots vote in next year’s UK general election.
Speaking via videolink, he told Express.co.uk: ”What we are seeing is the total implosion in the SNP.
“To put this in context, the SNP have been in power in Scotland now for 16 years and it’s looked like they were more or less unassailable over a long period of time.
“You’re looking back just two months ago and Nicole Sturgeon was First Minister, she had a commanding poll lead.
“She had no intention, she was telling us, all of stepping down, and it looked like she was in the position to lead the SNP for many years potentially to come.
“She was gearing up the SNP to fight the next general election as a proxy independence referendum and trying to get 50 percent of the votes, which would then be taken as the mandate to get Scottish independence.
“In the space of just two months, we’ve seen a total collapse of the SNP as a serious political party and Nicola Sturgeon is gone.
“Her reputation is in the gutter as a result of what has happened and her successor, Humza Yousaf, who won the SNP leadership by the narrowest of margins, is now having to devote all his time to trying to clean up the mess that she’s left behind.
“The electoral prospects for the SNP and the prospects for Scottish independence, look far, far weaker than they’ve done at any point in the last two decades.”
Asked to assess the reasons for the party’s apparent fall from grace, Mr Fraser suggested the party’s record in key policy areas including the economy and education was “catching up with it”.
However, he continued: “The tipping point was this catastrophic series of events with this police investigation into £600,000 that were raised from SNP supporters, supposedly to be ring-fenced for another independence referendum campaign, and that money seems to have disappeared and this is led to this police investigation, Operation Branchform.”
Referring to the arrests of Mr Murrell and Mr Beattie, Mr Fraser said there was “a broad expectation here at Holy Road that it’s only a matter of time before Nicola Sturgeon herself is questioned by the police if not arrested”.
He continued: “And I think that really has been the catalyst for this total collapse within the SNP over the past few weeks.
“And it puts into perspective the decision made by Nicola Sturgeon to stand down at the time.
“It was very unexpected and she just said, effectively, ‘I’ve run out of road, you know I want to change in my life’.
“There was no suggestion that there was any other purpose behind it, but now, with the benefit of hindsight, we can look at that decision and say, surely this was influenced by the fact that that she knew this police investigation of getting very serious.
“Had she still been First Minister her leadership would not have survived the events of the last two weeks.”
Mr Fraser readily admitted he himself had been left stunned by recent events, explaining: “When Peter Murrell was arrested and there was that police rate on his and Nicola Sturgeon’s house and a simultaneous police raid one the SNP headquarters people were genuinely shocked right across the political spectrum, particularly in the SNP itself to see this happen.”
YouGov’s survey, based on interviews of 1,032 adults living in Scotland conducted between April 17 and 20, suggested the SNP constituency vote share has dropped five points since March to 38, while its regional vote had fallen by the same amount, to 30 percent.
In terms of Westminster voting intentions, the party’s share of the vote has dipped by two points to 37 percent, YouGov’s poll indicated.
Express.co.uk has contacted both Mrs Sturgeon via her Holyrood office, and the SNP, for comment.