Scottish Daily Mail
Two-week wait for SNP warrant stinks to high heaven, says ex-top cop
TAKING two weeks to grant police a search warrant for Nicola Sturgeon’s home ‘stinks to high heaven’, an ex-chief superintendent has claimed.
Tom Buchan last night described the Crown Office hold-up in agreeing to the raid as ‘unprecedented’.
He insisted warrants could be obtained ‘in a day’ and that taking longer risked suspects finding out they were to be targeted.
Pressure is now mounting on the SNP to order a public investigation into the situation, with concerns growing the raids may have been put off until after the party’s leadership contest was over.
The Crown Office has denied this and Ms Sturgeon’s successor as First Minister, Humza Yousaf, yesterday claimed the timescale for the warrant was not ‘out of the ordinary’.
But Mr Buchan, former president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, said: ‘The whole thing stinks to high heaven. Two weeks to get a warrant? It’s beyond belief and it leaves the very real risk that someone could have been tipped off.’
The former chief superintendent of Strathclyde Police added: ‘In my 30 years in the police, I never experienced a situation where it took two weeks to get a warrant. I could go to a justice [of the peace] at any time of day, explain the case, and it would be granted. They wouldn’t always be happy if it was in the early hours, but we would get a warrant.
‘Even if there was an issue, it could be sorted in a day.’
Police Scotland asked the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) for search warrants to raid Ms Sturgeon’s home and the SNP’s Edinburgh HQ on March 20, seven days before the conclusion of the leadership contest. Police arrived at the home of Ms Sturgeon and husband Peter Murrell on April 5 – two days after a warrant was granted. A senior police source told the Mail that the hold-up was ‘very, very unusual’ and that requests for search warrants ‘happen with haste and are granted with haste in the vast majority of cases’.
He said: ‘I suspect the police and Crown came to an agreement that it would be madness to do it in the midst of the leadership election.
‘You’re looking to search the First Minister’s home, so there’s no doubt it would have been enormously problematic. The police and Crown Office do not operate in a political vacuum – you can only imagine the commotion if Nicola Sturgeon’s home had been raided in the leadership contest.’
A COPFS spokesman declined to explain the hold-up, while Mr Yousaf said it was not ‘based on election contests or politics’.
He added: ‘They make decisions based on what is appropriate to the Crown. I don’t believe there will be any particular reason out of the ordinary that it would take that time.’ But Scottish Conservative chief whip Alexander Burnett has now called for a dedicated inquiry into the police probe. He said: ‘There are a lot of serious questions we need to get to the bottom of.
‘The Lord Advocate is hamstrung by her conflict of interest. She is in an impossible position as both the head of the Crown Office and chief legal adviser to the SNPGreen Government. That only reaffirms the need for an inquiry into these delays when answers are simply not going to be forthcoming from senior Scottish Government figures.’
‘There are a lot of serious questions’