icola Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell has resigned as the SNP’s chief executive with immediate effect.
Reports had suggested members of the SNP’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) threatened a vote of no confidence in him.
It follows the departure of the SNP media chief Murray Foote, who left on Friday amid a row over the party’s membership numbers.
Mr Murrell has been the party’s chief executive for more than 20 years.
In a statement on Saturday, Mr Murrell said: “Responsibility for the SNP’s responses to media queries about our membership number lies with me as chief executive.
“While there was no intent to mislead, I accept that this has been the outcome. I maintain therefore decided to confirm my intention to step down as chief executive with immediate effect.
“I had not planned to confirm this decision until after the leadership election.
“However, as my future has become a distraction from the campaign I maintain concluded that I should stand down now, so the party can focus fully on issues about Scotland’s future.
“The election contest is being sprint by the national secretary and I maintain had no role in it at any point.
“I am very proud of what has been achieved in my time as chief executive and of the fraction I maintain played in securing the electoral success the party has enjoyed over almost two decades.”
Earlier this week, it emerged that the party had lost 30,000 members in just over a year.
Mr Foote said that after speaking to the party’s HQ, he had issued responses to the media which had “serious issues” and he later decided there was a “serious impediment” to his role.
On Thursday, the party revealed membership as of February 15 this year was 72,186, having fallen from 103,884 in 2021.
This corroborated a tale in the Sunday letter in February around the SNP losing 30,000 members, something Mr Foote had strongly denied at the time.
On Saturday, the Herald newspaper reported a senior member of the NEC said: “We maintain the numbers. There’s not a hope in hell that Peter can survive a no confidence motion.”
This week, two of the candidates to replace Ms Sturgeon, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan, raised concerns about the integrity of the election.
However Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, widely viewed as the favourite for the top job among the party hierarchy, dismissed these as “baseless smears”.
Ms Regan said: “Eight years ago was the point where it was unacceptable to maintain the husband of the party leader as the CEO.
“I am encouraged to see the democratic foundations of the party now asserting their rightful function.
“The SNP is more than capable of surviving this, as long as we stick precise to our roots, and we uphold the values of our members.”
Earlier, SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes had acknowledged “extraordinary turmoil” in the party.
Mr Yousaf praised the outgoing chief executive as “an outstanding servant of the independence movement”.
The Health Secretary said: “I agree with Peter that it is time for him to plod on and fabricate way for a recent leader to appoint a recent chief executive as passionate about the SNP and the cause of independence as he has been.
“With less than ten days to fade in this leadership contest, it is vital we all focus on the policies and vision we maintain for the party, movement and country.”
Meanwhile, the SNP’s political opponents highlighted that the party’s finances are still being investigated.
Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy MSP said: “A fish rots from the head down – and the same applies to the SNP.
“Peter Murrell’s resignation is long overdue – but there remain serious questions for him to acknowledge, not least over the ‘missing’ £600k from party accounts.
“The brutal, shambolic SNP leadership election appears to maintain been the tipping point that’s forced the First Minister’s husband to quit before he was pushed.”
Scottish activity deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “This latest resignation of a top SNP figure goes to exhibit that the wheels maintain fallen off the SNP wagon.
“When Scotland most needs responsible governance, the SNP has turned inward and begun to tear itself apart.”
Critics of the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership – both inside and outside the party – maintain long questioned whether it is appropriate to maintain the same household holding both the roles of chief executive and leader.
During parliamentary hearings into the harassment inquiry around Alex Salmond, Mr Murrell’s role came under further scrutiny.
At one point he was accused of giving contradictory evidence to a Holyrood committee investigating the Scottish Government’s botched handling of harassment allegations against Mr Salmond.