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Former leader of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, arrested in connection with party funding probe

Former Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon was arrested on Sunday in connection with a police investigation into the Scottish National Party's funding, her spokesperson said.

'I know beyond doubt that I am in fact innocent of any wrongdoing,' Sturgeon says

A person in a suit leaves a home.

Former Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Sunday she was innocent after being arrested and held for more than seven hours as part of a police probe into the fate of funds for her pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP).

The police investigation is looking at what happened to more than 600,000 pounds ($1 million Cdn) in funding raised by Scottish independence campaigners in 2017 that was supposed to have been ring-fenced but may have been used for other purposes.

The arrest is deeply embarrassing for the SNP, which has dominated Scottish politics for most of the last two decades. Sturgeon stepped down earlier this year, and support for the party and its aim of independence has since dropped.

"To find myself in the situation I did today when I am certain I have committed no offence is both a shock and deeply distressing…. I would never do anything to harm either the SNP or the country," she said in a statement posted on Twitter.

"Given the nature of this process, I cannot go into detail. However, I do wish to say this…. I know beyond doubt that I am in fact innocent of any wrongdoing."

STATEMENT <a href="https://t.co/MlpWJGzwi0">pic.twitter.com/MlpWJGzwi0</a>


Earlier a spokesperson for Sturgeon said she had by arrangement attended an interview with Police Scotland to be arrested and questioned, and she was co-operating with the investigation.

Police Scotland said a 52-year-old woman had been arrested at 10:09 a.m. local time as a suspect in connection with its probe into the SNP's finances, before being released without charge at 5:24 p.m. pending further investigation.

"As the investigation is ongoing, we are unable to comment further," Police Scotland said.

The SNP said it had been co-operating with the investigation and would continue to do so. "It is not appropriate to publicly address any issues while that investigation is ongoing," a spokesperson said.

Police officers, cars and a tent are set up outside a home.

In April, Sturgeon's husband Peter Murrell, and the party's then-treasurer Colin Beattie were arrested and then released without charge pending further investigation as part of the same probe. Sturgeon, Murrell and Beattie were all signatories on the SNP's accounts.

At the time of Murrell's arrest, police carried out a lengthy search of the couple's home in Glasgow, which was sealed off with blue and white police tape.

Culture of 'secrecy and coverup'

Sturgeon, the longest-serving leader of Scotland's semi-autonomous government, caught the political world by surprise when she announced her resignation in February, saying she had become too divisive to lead her country to independence.

Scots rejected ending the more than 300-year-old union with England by 55 to 45 per cent in a 2014 referendum, but the Brexit vote two years later and Scotland's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic brought new support for independence.

The Conservative government in Westminster has refused a new referendum, and polls show support for the SNP and independence have dropped since Sturgeon's departure.

WATCH | Sturgeon blasts U.K. Supreme Court ruling on Scottish independence:

Ruling against Scottish referendum a blow to U.K. 'partnership,' says Scottish leader

7 months ago

Duration 1:06

A ruling by the U.K. Supreme Court against allowing a Scottish referendum on independence 'shatters' the idea of the U.K. as a 'voluntary partnership,' says Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Opposition parties have accused the SNP of being mired in scandal and too focused on independence to govern Scotland properly.

The Labour Party's Scotland spokesperson, Ian Murray, said there was a culture of "secrecy and coverup" in the SNP.

"The same culture that leads to police tents in front gardens has created the deeply dysfunctional government that is currently failing Scots," he said.

Police investigation proceed without interference.<br><br>There has been a culture of secrecy in SNP. The same culture that leads to police tents in front gardens created the deeply dysfunctional government that is currently failing Scots.<br> <br>Humza must tell Scotland what he knew. <a href="https://t.co/FtgQmkYiwF">pic.twitter.com/FtgQmkYiwF</a>


Sturgeon's successor, Humza Yousaf, has described the police investigation as challenging, but he has defended the SNP's record and accused the Westminster government of interfering in the governing of Scotland and making devolution unworkable.

The leadership contest to replace Sturgeon exposed deep divisions within the party during her eight years in power, which saw a small group exercise control over party affairs.

YouGov last month said that on current polling, the SNP could lose about half its seats to Labour in the next U.K. election, expected in 2024.

Although the SNP would still be the largest party in Scotland, large gains for Labour there could be key to the British opposition party's hopes of a majority and returning to power in Westminster for the first time since 2010.

Earlier on Sunday, Yousaf said the SNP would be willing to do a deal with Labour in the event of a hung Parliament.

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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