NICOLA Sturgeon is being stripped of her £600,000-a-year VIP police protection amid a ‘squabble’ erupting behind the scenes over spending
Police chiefs and the Scottish Government agreed to end 24/7 representation, which was still in force after she stepped down as First Minister in March.
However, a source said there had been “backlash” following threats against her in recent years, although not from Ms Sturgeon.
Sources revealed the former first minister’s close protection duty was extended after she left office in late March amid fears she needed the security.
But after a behind-the-scenes debate about the appropriate level of insurance coverage and justifiable costs for the public, insiders said Police Scotland and the Scottish Government are pulling the plug.
Former Chief Constable Sir Iain Livingstone, who retired this month, and the Scottish Government’s top official, Secretary of State John-Paul Marks, have signed the amendments.
As it emerged yesterday, Ms Sturgeon’s police team stayed put when she was arrested, named as a suspect and later released without charge on June 11 as part of the long-running police fraud probe into SNP finances.
Scottish Conservative MSP and Shadow Justice Minister Russell Findlay said:
“With the SNP cutting Police Scotland’s budget by hundreds of millions of pounds, police are having to make some incredibly difficult spending decisions to keep the people of Scotland safe.
“However, the decision to remove Nicola Sturgeon’s £600,000 annual insurance coverage was taken after a rigorous and painstaking assessment of all potential risks.
“It must certainly have been a first for a politician who has 24-hour police protection to be arrested by fellow Scottish Police officers.”
She resigned as First Minister on March 28, a week before her husband
Peter Murrell has been arrested and his home searched as part of the investigation into the fate of around £600,000 donated to the SNP for a second independence referendum.
However, sources said their police team – reportedly consisting of about six officers in rotation and vehicles – remained in place.
It is understood that some officials were increasingly concerned that the spending and deployment of resources was unjustified.
There are now claims that there has been a behind-the-scenes “blow back” and “argument” over the decision to end security measures entirely following threats against the former First Minister in recent years.
But SNP officials insist Ms Sturgeon and the party did not fight the decision – and that she will be happy to return to normal.
Speaking to an audience at the Edinburgh Fringe last week, her replacement, Humza Yousaf, said Ms Sturgeon was fed up with being under police surveillance.
He said she once told him, “You have no idea what it’s like. I can’t even go out for coffee with a friend without cops sitting at the table next to me.”
Sources revealed that their security service has been scaled back and is set to shut down completely this month.
A source said, “While it didn’t come directly from Sturgeon, there was opposition to the decision — a bit of a behind-the-scenes dispute.”
Another said there had been debate over the change, while a third said it was “unusual” for ex-ministers to remain undercover for as long as Ms Sturgeon.
Former First Ministers Alex Salmond and Jack McConnell had no police security after leaving office, sources say.
However, Ms. Sturgeon has received several threats over the years, several of which have resulted in criminal proceedings.
Police Scotland, the Scottish Government, the SNP and Ms Sturgeon all declined to comment yesterday.
We pay for your stories and videos! Do you have a story or video for The Scottish Sun? Email us at email@example.com or call 0141 420 5200