Peter Murrell is not well known to the public, Scottish or otherwise. However, as a backroom political organiser and husband of the Scottish First Minister and SNP Leader, Murrell is one of the most influential people in Scottish politics.
Mr Murrell rose to become Chief Executive of the Scottish National Party in 1999 and has been their election guru ever since. The SNP’s breakthrough success at the 2007 Holyrood election is largely credited to Murrell’s work.
Nicola Sturgeon’s Husband
Murrell first met his future wife, Nicola Sturgeon in 1988, at an SNP youth weekend which he was organising. However, the relationship only blossomed when the couple began working more closely together in 2003.
There was said to be ‘great excitement’ among the SNP ranks when they were outed as an official item at the 2004 SNP conference. The couple were married on 16th July 2010.
SNP Chief Executive
Unlike his wife, Murrell is not an elected figure, rather, he is an SNP appointee in charge of the party’s staff and strategy.
Murrell became the Chief Executive Officer of the Scottish National Party in 1999. Behind the-scenes meddling in this role were said to have earned him the nickname ‘Penfold‘, after Danger Mouse’s sidekick in the children’s cartoon series.
Mr Murrell has held his role as CEO of the SNP throughout its meteoric rise to the forefront of Scottish politics. He is considered by many to have been instrumental in the SNP’s success.
Peter Murrell – Early Life
Born in Edinburgh in December 1964, Murrell attended Craigmount High School and studied at Glasgow University. Murrell, much like his wife, has spent most of his adult life in politics.
In 2000 Murrell was the Company Secretary of Independence Merchandising Limited, a now-dissolved company which marketed products with a Scottish Independence theme.
Peter Murrell and Alex Salmond
Peter Murrell and Alex Salmond have known each other for a long time.
Murrell’s first job in SNP politics was as an employee in Alex Salmond’s Banff and Buchan constituency office. For many years, Murrell was considered close to Mr Salmond as SNP leader, although he has since described Salmond of having ‘high expectations’ and sometimes of being ‘difficult’.
Given that Murrell’s wife Nicola is reported not to have spoken to Mr Salmond since 2018, it can be assumed that Murrell’s own relations with Salmond have also now somewhat soured.
In 2018, Alex Salmond faced accusations of alleged sexual harassment, but in March 2020, Salmond was acquitted of all these charges by a Scottish court. Attention then turned to the subsequent Salmond Inquiry in relation to how the Scottish government had dealt with the affair.
Although Salmond had himself resigned from the SNP in 2018, some have accused Murrell of being determined to rid the SNP of Salmond’s influence.
In 2020, Murrell was accused of making allegedly contradictory claims to a committee of MSPs investigating the Scottish government’s handling of the Salmond controversy.
Firstly, Murrell was questioned about his alleged involvement in a WhatsApp group set up after the surfacing of Salmond’s allegations. Murrell denied any knowledge of such a group, adding that he was ‘not on‘ WhatsApp. This latter claim was however further questioned. In a subsequent statement to the Holyrood Committee, Murrell related, ‘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’.
Secondly, Mr Murrell’s role in the Salmond affair attracted controversy around his attendance (or lack thereof), at a meeting between Nicola Sturgeon and Mr Salmond held at his and Sturgeon’ house. The SNP Chief Executive has said that he did not ask his wife about the meeting due to it being Scottish government business. However Sturgeon has said that the meeting was a party matter and held in her capacity as party leader.
After an appearance in front of the Holyrood Committee overseeing the Salmond Inquiry, Labour MSP Jackie Baillie called for Mr Murrell to ‘explain the contradictions and discrepancies in his evidence to the committee yesterday as a matter of urgency’.
Sturgeon’s husband is apparently a good cook, and Nicola Sturgeon has previously said that he does all the cooking for the pair at their house.
Twitter – @PeterMurrell