Scotland politics

Kenny MacAskill calls for SNP's chief executive to go

Kenny MacAskill Image copyright PA
Image caption Kenny MacAskill was the justice secretary for more than seven years

A former SNP minister has called for Nicola Sturgeon's husband to be replaced as chief executive of the party.

Kenny MacAskill, who was justice secretary during Alex Salmond's leadership, raised his concerns about Peter Murrell's position in an interview with The Sunday Herald.

He called for a deputy to be recruited, who could replace Mr Murrell in a year.

It came after the SNP lost 21 seats in the general election.

Although the SNP finished with more seats than any other party in Scotland, their share of the vote dropped below 40%.

And they suffered a number high-profile casualties, including former first minister Alex Salmond and deputy leader Angus Robertson.

Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to "reflect carefully" on the result, and admitted that the prospect of a second independence referendum was a factor in the outcome.

Mr MacAskill, who was justice secretary between 2007 and 2014, first raised his concerns about the SNP leadership in a column for The Scotsman on Friday.

In it, he called for Ms Sturgeon to "broaden her management team" in a bid to maximise Scotland's influence.

Pressed on the issue by the Sunday Herald, he was asked whether being married to the party leader was "an issue" for Mr Murrell.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell were pictured outside their local polling station on Thursday

Mr MacAskill replied: "Yes. Even if subconscious, it must affect his judgement.

"Trouble is no-one can step in at [the] moment as he's never done a succession strategy.

"They need to recruit a deputy with the intention of replacing him in a year."

In his earlier piece for The Scotsman, Mr MacAskill said the SNP did not expect to perform so badly in the election.

'An opportunity'

He criticised their campaign which, he said had "little coherence" until the final fortnight and "little semblance of a message".

And he said Ms Sturgeon should take some responsibility for the SNP's performance as she had "centralised control of the party" and was at the forefront of the campaign, despite it being a Westminster election.

Mr MacAskill added: "Changes are needed in how the party is run and a more radical position needs taken on policy.

"The switch of many SNP votes to Labour wasn't against independence, but in support of Jeremy Corbyn's hope and vision. But 35 seats when the Tories are even less in command than before is an opportunity.

"Rather than seeking to be the best opposition, this is a chance to maximise Scottish influence. However, Nicola Sturgeon now needs to broaden her management team."

Questions asked

Scottish Labour's election campaign manager James Kelly said: "The SNP was sent a clear message on Thursday: get back to the day job.

"It's quite clear that Nicola Sturgeon's woeful record in government cost the SNP seats in this election.

"And questions will rightly be asked within the SNP about the panicked campaign that Peter Murrell helped to run, which culminated in the farcical attempt to tell voters to back the SNP to get Labour. It was confused, incompetent and desperate.

"Nicola Sturgeon has some very serious questions to answer now. She must categorically drop her plans for a divisive second independence referendum and get back to the day job."

The SNP have not responded to a request for a comment.

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