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The SNP’s communications chief has resigned following “serious issues” with information given to him by the party’s headquarters.
Murray Foote, a former journalist, announced he was standing down with a short message posted to Twitter.
He said: “Acting in good faith and as a courtesy to colleagues at party HQ, I issued agreed party responses to media enquiries regarding membership. It has subsequently become apparent there are serious issues with these responses.
“Consequently, I concluded this created a serious impediment to my role and I resigned my position with the SNP Group at Holyrood.”
It is the latest development in what is becoming an increasingly unglamorous race to replace Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader and first minister of Scotland.
Mr Foote’s resignation came after the candidates to replace Ms Sturgeon – finance minister Kate Forbes, health minister Humza Yousaf, and backbencher Ash Regan – called for the size of the party membership to be released.
In a report from The Sunday Mail last month, it was claimed the party membership had dropped by 30,000 since 2021 – when it stood at 103,884.
At the time, Mr Foote described the story as “drivel”, and the party further claimed the “figure that was reported is not just flat wrong, it’s wrong by about 30,000” in response to similar reporting by the National.
The SNP admitted on Thursday the party membership when the leadership race started last month was down 31,698 from the numbers in 2021.
In response to Mr Foote’s resignation, an SNP spokesperson initially said: “We are disappointed and saddened that Murray felt the need to take this decision. He has been a great colleague over the past few years, and we wish well him for whatever he decides to do next.”
A longer statement was then released, which said: “Murray has been an outstanding head of press for the Holyrood Group and we thank him for his service.
“He has acted entirely in good faith throughout.
“The party was asked a specific question about loss of members as a direct result of the [Gender Recognition Reform] Bill and Indyref2. The answer given was intended to make clear that these two reasons had not been the cause of significant numbers of members leaving.
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“The membership figure is normally produced annually and is not produced in response to individual media queries, including in this instance.
“In retrospect, however, we should not have relied on an understanding of people’s reasons for leaving as the basis of the information given to Murray and, thereafter, the media.
“A new, modernised membership system is currently being developed for the party.”
Mr Yousaf said: “Murray has been outstanding since joining SNP media team, he’ll be sorely missed.
“Reform of our HQ operations has been a key part of my campaign. With fresh party leadership should come a fresh approach to our HQ operation. For me, this will be a key priority as your SNP leader.”