Sturgeon says she has left her successor 'a brilliant foundation'
NICOLA Sturgeon has insisted she is leaving the next SNP leader a “brilliant foundation” on which to build, despite the feuding and turmoil unleashed by her resignation.
The First Minister also denied the SNP was in a “tremendous mess” even though the party’s own president used the phrase to describe its predicament on Sunday.
The Scottish Tories said it was "mind-boggling" that Ms Sturgeon could deny the "trail of destruction" since she announced her exit four weeks ago.
Ms Sturgeon made the comments during a row of broadcast interviews at the start of her final full week in Bute House.
She also claimed she didn’t know her party’s membership had fallen by 30,000, despite her husband being able to monitor the number in real time.
Peter Murrell quit as SNP chief executive on Saturday with immediate effect after the party HQ misled the media and its own Holyrood media chief about falling membership.
Murray Foote felt obliged to resign on Friday after his position was undermined, and faced with a vote of no confidence by the SNP’s ruling body, Mr Murrell jumped the next day.
He claimed there had been no “intent to mislead” when SNP bosses called a newspaper story about the loss of 30,000 members “malicious” and "drivel".
The party admitted on Thursday that the number had indeed fallen by more than 30,000 since the last published figure of 103,884 for the end of December 2021, to 72,186.
On Sunday, SNP president Michael Russell, who is now acting chief executive, gave an extraordinarily candid interview to BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show.
He said the party was in a “tremendous mess” and things had gone “spectacularly wrong” through the course of the leadership contest.
The race between Kate Forbes, Ash Regan and Humza Yousaf has also seen attacks on the government's record, feuding between SNP politicians, and doubt cast on the credibility of the election itself.
READ MORE: Salmond claims Murrell and SNP 'systematically lied' over member stats
Appearing on ITV’s Loose Women, Ms Sturgeon said Mr Russell was only “referring to some of the issues around the leadership election”, adding: “The SNP is not in a mess.”
She also claimed her 89-year-old party was going through “some growing pains”.
She said: “They are necessary, but they are difficult.”
Ms Sturgeon also gave an interview to Sky News political editor Beth Rigby.
Asked about Mr Russell’s comment, Ms Sturgeon said: “I don’t think the party’s in a tremendous mess and I don’t actually think that's what Mike meant.
“Some of the issues around the leadership election have, you know, created this impression of it being messier than we would like it to be but the process is fundamentally sound.
“The party is undefeated electorally.
“I'm struck by the fact that most parties who go through a process like this do it after an election defeat. That's not the position the SNP is in.
“We're going through what I would describe as necessary growing pains - it is difficult but I think we'll come out of it stronger.”
Pressed on the slump in membership , she said: “I'm not suggesting that this is not a difficult process and at times, it has been a less than edifying process.
“The fact I'm standing down is testament to the fact that I think after so long in government, this is a moment for refresh, renewal, change.
“But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We have the trust of the people of Scotland, and we've got to make sure we retain that trust.”
Pressed on the situation looking a mess, Ms Sturgeon said: “We're going through a difficult period just now, but I believe we’ll emerge stronger from that.
“For any political party or any organisation, you cannot be forever overly dependent on one individual and that's part of the reason - we need to be able to move on.
“There's a wealth of talent in the SNP, we need to allow that to come forward.
“I'm not doing my party any favours by staying on longer.
“I've been around for so long, you become so dominant in the political discourse, that you actually start to eclipse other people and the talent that is there.
“So is this difficult? Yes. Will we come through it? Yes.
“And in terms of where I leave my party, I am bequeathing to my successor a party that is undefeated electorally in my entire leadership, a party that remains the biggest in Scotland.
“That's a brilliant foundation for anybody on which to build.”
READ MORE: Regan calls for SNP members to be able to change vote
The First Minister also said she had not heard from the police whether she and her husband would be interviewed as part of an investigation into a possible fundraising fraud at the SNP.
She said: “I’m not going to comment, I wouldn’t comment on any ongoing police investigation and I’m not going to comment on this one.”
Asked “hand on heart, did this play any part in your departure?”, she replied: “No.”
Scottish Tory deputy leader Meghan Gallacher said: “It’s clear Nicola Sturgeon has already mentally checked out of Bute House and is focusing on the next phase of her life.
“But as she heads off into the sunset, the First Minister – along with her husband – leaves a trail of destruction in their wake for the SNP and the country.
“How she can deny her party is in a mess is mind-boggling, given her departure has sparked a brutal civil war.
“The leadership contest has seen her record in government trashed by all of the feuding candidates, two of whom have questioned the integrity of the contest itself, while her chief executive spouse and the SNP’s media chief have both been forced to quit over lies told about membership figures.
“Sadly, though, the chaos created by this squalid pantomime extends far beyond the SNP. The whole of Scotland is suffering because the real priorities of the public are being ignored by a bitterly divided governing party fighting among itself.”