Image caption, Murray Foote stood down from his previous role with the party amid a row over membership numbers
The SNP has appointed its former head of communications Murray Foote as its new chief executive.
Mr Foote resigned from his previous role in March amid a row over the party’s membership numbers.
He had described a newspaper report that they had dropped by 30,000 as “drivel”, but it was later confirmed the figure was correct.
He replaces Peter Murrell who stood down after taking responsibility for misleading the media.
Mr Foote said: “I am delighted to take up this important role and look forward to helping build the campaign for independence, both by strengthening the SNP’s headquarter functions and supporting the party’s formidable organisation across Scotland.”
He was previously editor-in-chief at the Daily Record and Sunday Mail newspapers from February 2014 to March 2018 before joining the SNP as the party’s communications chief.
First Minister Humza Yousaf said Mr Foote would bring a “wealth of experience and talent to the role.”
On X, formerly Twitter, he said: “I’m delighted to have him on board as we look to strengthen the SNP HQ, empower our incredible activists across Scotland and build a winning campaign for independence.”
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Both Mr Foote and Peter Murrell – who is the husband of Nicola Sturgeon – stepped down during the dispute over SNP membership numbers, with the party initially denying claims it had lost 30,000 members.
The SNP later admitted that its membership had fallen to 72,186 from the 104,000 it had two years previously.
Mr Foote said he had issued agreed party responses to the media which “created a serious impediment” to his role.
He maintained that he had issued the responses in “good faith as a courtesy to colleagues at party HQ”.
After his resignation, Mr Foote spoke out against the police investigation into the SNP’s funding and finances, calling the process a “wild goose chase” and a “grotesque spectacle”.
Image source, PA Media
Image caption, Peter Murrell – the SNP’s former chief executive – also quit his post in the row over the party issuing misleading membership figures to the media
Mr Murrell and Nicola Sturgeon have since been arrested and questioned as part of the police inquiry, along with the former SNP treasurer Colin Beattie.
All were released without charge pending further investigation.
Mr Foote will take up his role from Monday of next week.
A Scottish Conservative spokesman said the SNP were “merely reshuffling the same people into different posts”.
He added: “Nicola Sturgeon and her husband may be in the background but their top team are still running the show in the party under Humza Yousaf.”
Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “Presented with the chance of a fresh start for the SNP after years of secrecy, Humza Yousaf has instead appointed Murray Foote as the successor to the beleaguered Peter Murrell.
“This is just the latest continuity candidate to be brought back by Humza Yousaf who is desperately trying to get the band back together ahead of what could be their farewell tour.”
This is one of the biggest jobs in Scottish politics. But it comes with immediate challenges.
The police investigation into the SNP’s finances is rumbling on, and there’s likely to be a general election next year where dozens of seats will have to be fiercely defended.
Mr Foote’s return has also given political opponents an opportunity to accuse the party of resorting to recycling figures from its past.
But it’s easy to see why a party would want Murray Foote on board. He’s an experienced operator, not just in the political world but also in journalism.
As a former national newspaper editor he’s no stranger to managing big teams, taking high-pressure decisions, and predicting where the news agenda is likely to go.
His predecessor in the role, Peter Murrell, was hugely influential and stayed in the job for just shy of 25 years.
Murray Foote probably isn’t aiming for quite the same tenure, but he’ll hope he can steady the SNP ship in challenging times.