A police investigation into SNP finances that saw Nicola Sturgeon’s home raided is fuelled by misogyny, one of her closest friends has claimed.
Val McDermid, a crime writer, attempted to downplay the seriousness of the police enquiries into SNP finances, which saw Ms Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell arrested and a warrant executed on their home.
She said she believed the investigation was driven by reasons other than alleged criminality, with criminal complaints motivated by sexism and people who “hate Nicola”.
The comments were published just days after Police Scotland warned against uninformed speculation from public figures, and insisted their investigation had been proportionate.
However, Ms McDermid, while admitting to not knowing about the specifics of the investigation, added: “I certainly don’t think we’re talking about the great train robbery here.”
Police searched Ms Sturgeon’s home in Uddingston, near Glasgow, on April 5.
Ms McDermid, who has been friends with Ms Sturgeon since 2015, claimed that police had dug up the garden and hinted that even the former SNP leader and Mr Murrell were confused about what detectives were looking for.
While police were pictured holding garden equipment at Ms Sturgeon’s home, it is understood claims that they were digging up Ms Sturgeon’s garden are not accurate.
"They were taking away pairs of scissors and toothbrushes and the like, and digging up back gardens,” Ms McDermid told The Sunday Mail.
"It seems unusual for a financial crime. None of us know what the allegations are because there's been no charges.
“It seems to me to be entirely motivated not specifically by the alleged crimes but for other reasons but I can only shrug my shoulders and say, I have no idea.”
Mr Murrell, who was the SNP’s chief executive for more than two decades, was questioned by police for 11 hours before being released without charge pending further enquiries.
Colin Beattie, the former SNP treasurer, was later arrested and was also released without charge.
Ms McDermid said it had been a “difficult situation”. She added: “I don't think anybody knows what's going on. Even the people at the heart of it don't know what's going on.
"Like most of the population of Scotland I have no idea what's going on and I think people are just so used to rumour, innuendo and smear that they are bemused."
The author, 67, said she was “absolutely not a conspiracy theorist” and did not believe there was “some terrible conspiracy against Nicola Sturgeon at the heart of this”.
However, she speculated that those making complaints to police had been motivated by sexism rather than genuine concern that laws had been broken.
“I think what this is, is a few people have stirred something up and lots of other people who hate Nicola for whatever reason, much of it to do with misogyny, have just piled in behind them,” she said.
"I don't really understand what's going on, but I certainly don't think we're talking about the great train robbery here."
Police began looking into the SNP’s finances after some members complained that money they had donated for independence referendum campaigns, which never happened, had gone missing from the party’s accounts.
They had previously been assured that the cash would be ringfenced for use in a future referendum.
Police enquiries are believed to have broadened with SNP headquarters in Edinburgh also raided and a luxury camper van, bought with party funds, seized from the driveway of Mr Murrell’s elderly mother.
Last week, Sir Iain Livingstone, the chief executive of Police Scotland, defended the investigation amid mounting criticism from Ms Sturgeon’s allies that it had been heavy-handed.
While the SNP and Ms Sturgeon have declined to comment, the party’s former media chief, Murray Foote, and her former adviser, Noel Dolan, have publicly criticised police.
Sir Iain said last week that the criminal investigation had been “diligent, thorough and proportionate” in a thinly veiled riposte to the attacks.
Urging “civic leaders” commenting on the case to act with “prudence and responsibility, he added: “Wholly inaccurate assertions, and uninformed speculation will only serve to damage justice, infringe the rights of individuals and undermine the rule of law."