NICOLA Sturgeon’s husband has been accused of giving yet more contradictory evidence to the Holyrood inquiry into the Alex Salmond inquiry.
SNP chief executive Peter Murrell appeared to suggest he has used the WhatsApp social messaging service, despite previously denying he had it, then denying he used it.
In new evidence to the inquiry, Mr Murrell said he had merely never used WhatsApp to discuss particular issues related to Mr Salmond.
The shift prompted a senior member of the SNP to call for Mr Murrell to be suspended by the party’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee.
Chris McEleny, the SNP group leader on Inverclyde Council, tweeted: “Nobody likes this, it isn’t nice to deal with, but protecting the party comes before protecting any 1 individual
“The Chief Executive must be suspended, that is within the gift of the NEC, they must do so.”
The Holyrood inquiry is looking at the Scottish Government’s bungled sexual misconduct probe into Mr Salmond in 2018, which he had set aside in a judicial review in January 2019.
He was later charged with sexual assault but cleared on all counts at a trial last March.
His supporters claim the former First Minister was the victim of a high-level SNP plot to stop him making a political comeback and rivalling his estranged successor.
It later emerged Mr Murrell had sent a party colleague messages on the day that Mr Salmond was charged urging police and prosecution action against him.
One read: “Totally agree folk should be asking the police questions… report now with the PF [procurator fiscal]on charges which leaves police twiddling their thumbs. So good time to be pressurising them. Would be good to know Met looking at events in London.”
He later said he did not express himself well, but defended sending the messages.
He also clarified that the messages were texts not, as first reported, WhatsApp messages.
In oral evidence to the inquiry last month, Mr Murrell was asked by Labour MSP Jackie Baillie if he had discussed Mr Salmond’s judicial review in a WhatsApp group with party or government colleagues.
He said: “I can tell you only that I know nothing about a WhatsApp group. I am not on WhatsApp; it is not a social media platform that I use.”
However it the emerged a WhatsApp account linked to his mobile number had been used the previous month, and he admitted he was on WhatsApp but didn’t use it.
He said: “I do not use WhatsApp. “There are several messaging apps on my phone that I don’t use. “This includes profiles on Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn, Instagram, Slack, Skype, and WhatsApp, none of which I use.”
But in a further clarification to the inquiry today, Mr Murrell was less emphatic.
In response to a written question whether he had “ever used WhatsApp in the past including any communications with SNP officials or party members on anything related to concerns about the former first minister and the timescales for such exchanges”, he said: “I confirm that I have not used WhatsApp on any matters related to concerns raised about the behaviour of Mr Salmond.”
Asked if he was involved in other electronic discussion groups, “for example text messages to multiple recipients, or other platforms where such concerns were discussed with SNP officials and/or SNP party members (and again the relevant timescales)”, he said: “I can confirm that I was not involved in any discussion groups where such concerns were discussed.”
Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: “Peter Murrell is now suggesting he does use WhatsApp after claiming that he didn’t under oath, and the SNP vigorously insisted that was the truth.
“Time and again, the SNP’s story before the Salmond inquiry has chopped and changed.
“Clearly the entire Sturgeon-Murrell household turns forgetful whenever Alex Salmond’s name is brought up. The First Minister and SNP chief executive seem to be making it all up as they go along.
“The SNP are doing all they can to hide the truth about how £500,000 of taxpayers’ money was wasted and women were so badly let down.”
An SNP spokesman said: “Mr Murrell does not use WhatsApp. The Committee asked for two specific confirmations which he has provided.”