Nicola Sturgeon is in custody after being arrested in connection with the investigation into the Scottish National Party’s finances.
Scotland’s former first minister was detained as a suspect and is currently being questioned by detectives.
A Police Scotland statement said: “A 52-year-old woman has today, Sunday, 11 June, 2023, been arrested as a suspect in connection with the ongoing investigation into the funding and finances of the Scottish National Party.
“The woman is in custody and is being questioned by Police Scotland detectives.
“A report will be sent to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.”
A spokesperson for Ms Sturgeon said: “Nicola Sturgeon has today, Sunday 11 June, by arrangement with Police Scotland, attended an interview where she was to be arrested and questioned in relation to Operation Branchform.
“Nicola has consistently said she would co-operate with the investigation if asked and continues to do so.”
Scotland’s former first minister is the latest high-profile figure in the party to be detained as part of Police Scotland’s Operation Branchform into the whereabouts of £600,000 of funding that had been earmarked for a second independence vote.
It is understood there have been complaints the ringfenced cash may have been used improperly by being spent elsewhere.
Her arrest comes on the back of the detentions of party treasurer Colin Beattie and former party chief executive Peter Murrell – also Ms Sturgeon’s husband – who were both subsequently released without charge.
Police previously searched the SNP headquarters and Ms Sturgeon and Mr Murrell’s home as part of the investigation.
Politically this is a hammer blow for the SNP
This is the bombshell that senior SNP figures feared but knew was probably coming
Nicola Sturgeon’s arrest is seismic. It was unthinkable a few short months ago.
The party she once led was a political powerhouse run on a system of discipline.
But since her shock resignation earlier this year, there have been some nationalist figures emerging to suggest the SNP under Ms Sturgeon and her husband Peter Murrell was secretive.
Leaked videos from around the time the police probe began showed Ms Sturgeon rubbishing suggestions all was not well with the SNP’s finances. The former first minister is now facing those very questions in a police interview suite under caution as a suspect.
Detectives will have been careful given the huge sensitivities in this case.
It has been suggested Ms Sturgeon’s detention was inevitable given the other two names on the latest SNP financial accounts were previously arrested.
But it still is incredible to see the reality play out in front of our eyes.
A luxury £100,000 motorhome was also seized from outside the home of Mr Murrell’s mother in Dunfermline, Fife.
An SNP spokesperson said: “These issues are subject to a live police investigation.
“The SNP have been cooperating fully with this investigation and will continue to do so however it is not appropriate to publicly address any issues while that investigation is ongoing.”
Ms Sturgeon’s arrest will intensify the scandal that has engulfed Scotland’s largest political party just months after she stood down as party leader and first minister in February.
At the time, Ms Sturgeon said she was quitting because the job “takes its toll on you and all around you”.
She said she believed part of “serving well would be to know almost instinctively when the time is right” to step down, adding: “In my head and in my heart I know that time is now, that it is right for me and my party and for the country.”
But months later, Mr Murrell was arrested – creating a sense of turmoil that has overshadowed the new leadership of Humza Yousaf, who was elected to replace Ms Sturgeon in a bitter and divisive leadership race in March.
Mr Yousaf previously said he was unaware the SNP owned a £100,000 motorhome until he became party leader.
He also admitted that he was unaware that the SNP’s longstanding auditors, Johnston Carmichael, had quit in September 2022 following a review of their client portfolio until he became party leader.
The party had been under pressure to find new auditors in order to file its accounts with the Electoral Commission by 7 July or risk being fined.
Last month Mr Yousaf confirmed the SNP had signed a contract with a new auditor more than half a year after the previous firm quit.
SNP MP Joanna Cherry said it was a “sad and difficult day for Scotland and for my party”.
“As I have said before I believe passionately in due process, respecting the integrity of an ongoing investigation and the principle of innocent until proven guilty and I shall not be commenting further,” she tweeted.
Labour’s Shadow Scotland Secretary Ian Murray said the arrest was a “deeply concerning development”.
“The Police Scotland investigation must be allowed to proceed without interference.
“For too long, a culture of secrecy and cover-up has been allowed to fester at the heart of the SNP.
“The same culture that leads to police tents in front gardens created the deeply dysfunctional government that is currently failing Scots.
“Humza Yousaf must urgently come clean on what he knows – the people of Scotland deserve answers.”