Former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell’s arrest was headline news around the UK this week, as police converged on the home he shares with his partner, former first minister Nicola Sturgeon.
The eyes of the media were trained on a Glasgow suburb when officers searched their property as part of an investigation into the finances of the SNP.
This led to speculation online that the couple’s garden was being dug up, as journalists reported that officers had been seen holding shovels. The claim was also repeated in the title of a News Agents podcast, hosted by Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel.
Ferret Fact Service looked at this claim and found it False.
Peter Murrell was arrested and taken in for questioning by Police Scotland officers on Wednesday 5 March, as part of its “ongoing investigation into the funding and finances of the Scottish National Party”.
The police probe was launched in 2021 into SNP finances after allegations that money donated to the party for a second referendum campaign had been misused.
As journalists attended Murrell and Sturgeon’s house in a suburb east of Glasgow, claims began circulating on social media that police were using shovels to dig in the back garden of the property.
This appeared to stem from a message posted on Twitter by a journalist who reported seeing detectives with “a spade & garden equipment” at the rear of the home.
Numerous commentators on social media speculated about digging in the garden, including the News Agents podcast, which titled an episode of its daily politics show, “Why are the police digging up Nicola Sturgeon’s garden?”
However, journalists at the scene confirmed they did not see any officers digging in the garden. ITV News reporter Peter Smith reported the shovels were found in a shed in the garden, and lifted while officers searched inside.
Ferret Fact Service has confirmed with police that Smith’s reporting is accurate, and no digging was undertaken.
Ferret Fact Service verdict: False
Police officers were seen with shovels during the search of Peter Murrell and Nicola Sturgeon’s property, leading to speculation there had been digging in the garden of their home. This is incorrect. Ferret Fact Service has confirmed no digging took place – the spades were found in a shed and not used as part of the search.
Photo credit: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament