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Nicola Sturgeon’s arrest caps an extraordinary reversal of fortune for one of the UK’s top politicians

The arrest of Nicola Sturgeon by police investigating the SNP’s funding and finances is an extraordinary moment given her stature in UK politics, despite some believing that it was inevitable.

It is incredible to think that less than a year ago, the former First Minister was at the top of her game, on her feet in the Holyrood chamber naming the date for her planned second Scottish independence referendum.

That vote was supposed to take place in October of this year, but the proposal was scrapped after the Supreme Court declared that MSPs could not legislate for indyref2 without Westminster’s permission.

In hindsight, that court judgment in November 2022 could be seen to mark the beginning of Ms Sturgeon’s remarkable – and rapid – fall from the summit of Scottish and UK politics.

It meant that her route to a legal indyref2 had effectively been sealed off, with her backup strategy of treating the next general election as a “de facto” independence vote soon beginning to unravel.

When she abruptly resigned in February, less than three months after the court ruling, Ms Sturgeon specifically referenced the concern over this strategy as one of her reasons for leaving, arguing she did not want to lead the SNP and its supporters down such a controversial route and then quit without seeing it through.

Since that moment, the SNP has been thrown into near constant turmoil, an unusual experience for a party that was previously famed for its unity and discipline. Naturally, its polling ratings have suffered as a consequence.

The leadership contest turned out to be a bruising experience, with all three candidates criticising aspects of their own party’s record in public.

Ms Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell and its head of communications Murray Foote also quit during the contest after a row over the size of the party’s membership.

Less than 10 days after Humza Yousaf was elected as her replacement, a bombshell dropped: Mr Murrell was arrested by police investigating the party’s finances, with a forensic tent erected on the front lawn of the couple’s house in Glasgow and a thorough search conducted.

The SNP’s headquarters in Edinburgh were also searched, a luxury motorhome impounded and two weeks later the party’s treasurer Colin Beattie was also arrested. Both he and Mr Murrell were released without charge, pending further inquiries.

The reason why many believed it was inevitable that Ms Sturgeon would be arrested is that she was named alongside her husband and Mr Beattie as one of the three “registered officers” on the SNP’s most recent financial accounts, so it seemed reasonable to assume that police would want to speak to her as part of their investigation.

Yet as the weeks went by with no arrest, some close to her began to wonder privately if it was going to happen at all. Ms Sturgeon herself has been going about her everyday business as a backbench Holyrood MSP and last month appeared at a book festival, with an event at the Edinburgh Fringe in August also in her diary.

While most expect her to step down as an MSP before the next Holyrood election in 2026, any intentions that she might have had about pursuing a career move have been put on hold during the police investigation. Now more than ever, it is unclear where her future lies.

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