The SNP’s head of communications resigns because of membership declarations
The SNP’s communications chief has resigned after membership numbers, which the party denied, turned out to be true.
The Sunday Mail reported last month that the SNP’s membership had fallen by 30,000 since 2021, a story confirmed this week when the party announced its membership under pressure from leading candidates.
In response to the initial story, Murray Foote – the party’s communications chief – described it as “chatter,” with the party saying in a separate article in the National that the “reported number is not only wrong, it’s actually wrong about 30,000”.
On Thursday, the party announced membership was 72,186 as of February 15 this year, after falling from 103,884 in 2021.
In a statement released Friday night, the former editor of the Daily Record appeared to admit that he had signed the statement destroying the original story.
“In good faith and as a courtesy to colleagues at party headquarters, I have issued agreed party responses to media inquiries regarding membership,” he said.
“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.”
It is not clear if Mr. Foote was provided with the wrong member details leading to the response.
Scottish Tory MSP Russell Findlay, a former journalist, said Mr Foote was being used as a “case guy”.
“Murray Foote gave out information that he had been told was wrong,” he said.
“He didn’t lie. The SNP lied.
“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 our best to Mr. Foote, who has clearly been given false information and is the scapegoat for the SNP hierarchy.”
An SNP spokesman said Mr Foote was a “distinguished press officer for the Holyrood Group” who “acted in good faith throughout”.
“The party was asked a specific question about the loss of members as a direct result of the GRR (Gender Recognition Reform) Act and Indyref2. The answer should make it clear that these two reasons were not the cause of a significant resignation of members,” said the spokesman.
“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 knowing the reasons for people leaving as the basis for the information given to Murray and then to the media.
“A new, modernized membership system is currently being developed for the party.”
Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s health secretary and one of three candidates vying to replace Nicola Sturgeon as the next party leader, said Mr Foote has been “outstanding since he joined the SNP media team” and that he is “sorryly missed”.
“Reforming our headquarters was an important part of my campaign. With a new party leadership should come a new approach to our HQ operations,” he said.