The arrest of Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s former first minister and the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) until February, has sent shockwaves across Scottish politics and cast a shadow over the future of the independence movement.
Sturgeon was arrested on Sunday morning by Police Scotland as part of an investigation into the SNP’s finances, which has been ongoing for nearly two years. She was questioned for seven hours before being released without charge pending further investigation.
The probe is looking into what happened to more than £600,000 ($754,140) that activists donated to the SNP for a future referendum campaign on Scottish independence but might have been used for other purposes.
Sturgeon’s arrest follows that of her husband Peter Murrell, who recently acted as the party’s chief executive officer, and Colin Beattie, the party’s former treasurer, who were both arrested and released without charge in April.
Sturgeon resigned as Scotland’s first minister and SNP leader in February after eight years in office, citing personal reasons and a desire to make way for new leadership. She was replaced by Humza Yousaf, who became Scotland’s first Muslim first minister.
Sturgeon proclaimed her innocence on Twitter after her release, saying she was “shocked and deeply distressed” by the situation and that she knew “beyond doubt” that she had committed no wrongdoing.
The SNP said it had been cooperating fully with the investigation and would continue to do so, but declined to comment further while the probe was ongoing.
The arrest of Sturgeon has dealt a major blow to the SNP and the pro-independence movement, which had already suffered a setback after failing to secure a majority in the Scottish Parliament elections in May. The SNP had hoped to use its mandate to pressure the UK government to allow another referendum on breaking away from the United Kingdom, but polls show that the Scottish public is divided on the issue.
The investigation has also raised questions about the transparency and accountability of the SNP, which dominates Scottish politics and has been in power since 2007. Some critics have accused the party of mismanaging public funds and being too secretive about its finances.
Police Scotland said the investigation was still active and urged the public to exercise caution when discussing it on social media.