SNP media chief Murray Foote resigns over membership disputes
The SNP’s media boss has subsequently resigned over the party’s membership numbers – after she denied the number had fallen by 30,000.
Murray Foote last month called press reports of the numbers “inaccurate” and “chatter”.
The SNP confirmed yesterday that membership has fallen to 72,186 from 104,000 two years ago.
Mr Foote said he gave agreed party responses to the media that “seriously hampered” his role.
The party initially refused to do so, but then confirmed there had been a 32,000 drop since December 2021.
Last month, the Sunday Mail – where Mr Foote used to be editor – reported that the SNP had lost 30,000 members, which the party called “not just wrong, but wrong by about 30,000”.
Mr Foote tweeted: “In good faith and as a courtesy to colleagues at party headquarters, I have made agreed party responses to media inquiries about membership.
“It later turned out that there were serious problems with these answers.
“Consequently, I came to the conclusion that this was a serious impediment to my role and I resigned from my position at the SNP Group in Holyrood.”
“acted in good faith”
The SNP said Mr Murray had been an outstanding press officer for the Holyrood Group, adding: “He has acted in good faith throughout.”
A statement said: “The party has been asked a specific question about membership losses as a direct result of the GRR Act and Indyref2. The answer given should clarify that these two reasons were not the cause of a significant number of members left.
“Membership is normally compiled annually and not in response to individual media inquiries, including in this case.
“However, in hindsight, we should not have relied on understanding the reasons for people leaving as the basis for the information to Murray and then to the media.
“A new, modernized membership system is currently being developed for the party.”
Mr Foote became editor of the Daily Record and Sunday Mail newspapers in 2014.
He was responsible for the front page of The Vow, which was seen as highly influential in the outcome of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.
It was written by the Better Together campaign, in which they promised more powers for Holyrood.
In an article written to mark the first anniversary of the vote, Mr Foote wrote that he and his colleagues did not believe at the time that Alex Salmond was “offering true independence”.
In 2019 he was appointed head of media at the SNP.
Scottish Conservative MSP Russell Findlay, a former journalist and his party’s press chief, defended Mr Foote – saying he had been given false information.
“He didn’t lie. The SNP lied,” Mr Findlay said. “The problem is not a press secretary. The problem is the lazy SNP leadership that has deliberately lied to the press and public.
“We wish Mr. Foote our best, who has been provided with clearly false information and is the case for the SNP hierarchy.”
Murray Foote’s former colleagues have highlighted his integrity when responding to his departure from the SNP.
It came as a surprise to many when the man who helped create the union “vow” during the 2014 independence campaign joined the party.
But he’s enjoyed his task – although it now ends in tears.
In the declaration of resignation, he emphasizes that he “in good faith” stated the incorrect membership numbers given by the party.
His former fellow journalists were furious at how they were treated, and apparently he is, too.
Mr Foote says this created a “serious obstacle” to his role.
So who gave him the numbers? There are now big questions for the SNP headquarters and its CEO Peter Murrell.
As the race for leadership continues, it tears through the SNP and wreaks havoc.
SNP membership peaked at 125,000 in 2019, when support for the party surged in the wake of the independence referendum, but had fallen to 85,000 by the end of last year.
That suggests a drop of 12,000 in just a few months.
After the latest membership numbers were released, Kate Forbes campaign manager Michelle Thomson MSP said she was pleased that “common sense has prevailed” – but that the “alarming drop in membership shows the party needs a change of direction”.
Ash Regan’s campaign linked the decline to the Scottish Government’s controversial gender recognition reforms, while the party’s President Mike Russell suggested that pressure on the cost of living could offer an alternative explanation.
The third candidate in the contest, Health Minister Humza Yousaf, said it was “really important” that the SNP didn’t lose more members, but the best way to do that was to continue the party’s “progressive agenda”.