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New SNP leader needs to ‘rebuild Scotland’s trust’, says Michael Russell

This comes after Peter Murrell resigned from his role as chief executive on Saturday following a row over membership numbers.

Murrell’s decision came after Kate Forbes and Ash Regan called for independent auditors to oversee the leadership election.

Once membership numbers were revealed, they showed the SNP has lost more than 30,000 members since 2021.

READ MORE: SNP members react to shock resignations at top of party

Speaking on The Sunday Show, Russell said: “I think it’s fair to say that there is a tremendous mess and we have to clear it up and that’s the task I’m trying to take on in the short-term.  

“The most important thing in that short-term, and this is about Scotland not just about the SNP, is that we have a fair electoral process that produces a clear, accepted outcome.”

The SNP president confirmed he had been speaking with the candidates about this and said he was pleased that both Kate Forbes and Humza Yousaf have “confirmed their belief in the integrity of the process”.

He added: “I am in dialogue with Ash Regan I hope to get to the same position. She has questions, I’m very happy to answer those questions.”

Russell then went on to say that the new leader would have to “rebuild the trust of Scotland” and that the election has “not been an edifying process”.

He said: “There hasn’t been a contested leadership in the SNP for 19 years and it shows. We’ve been out of practice doing this and what has happened has not been good for the party and it’s not been good for Scotland.”

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Asked about Regan, who has reportedly been speaking to lawyers about obtaining an interdict to pause the contest, Russell said: “I don’t believe there is a case (for pausing the election) for a variety of reasons and I think the fact that the other two candidates have openly declared their belief in the integrity of the process is very positive.

“I don’t want to do anything other than have a dialogue with each of the candidates and to try and persuade them that this is the right thing to do and therefore I don’t want to claim anything about my conversations with Ash.

“But I do want to be able I hope to persuade her that this is a process that is full of integrity.”

He added that not releasing membership figures was not the correct decision for this particular contest.

Asked why the party did not release membership figures, Russell said: “I have no idea why that took place. I have no idea at all. I’m not going to speculate about what happened then but we do need an answer to that.”

Russell pointed to the SNP’s record in government, including during the Covid-19 pandemic as to why people should still retain trust in the party.

“I hope it (trust) is not damaged in any way that cannot be repaired by a good new leader taking the opportunity to show what they can do because I have to tell you that Scotland needs independence more than ever.”

READ MORE: ‘Certainty’ independent Scotland’s deficit lower than GERS suggests

On the loss of members, he said: “Well I think there’s a variety of reasons. I think if you look at membership organisations, they’re one of the things that go first when there is a cost of living crisis.

“There may be issues that people disagree with. I don’t know. I simply do not know and considering I only knew the figures two or three days ago I don’t think I’m in a position to do that.”

He added that he was in “no doubt” the cost of living played a role and that it was important to “get to the bottom” of any other issues people had.

Russell also said the party should be “humbled” by the leadership contest and that it should “learn from the experience”. 


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