The SNP remains in turmoil in the aftermath of the resignation of its chief executive, Peter Murrell, as leadership in-fighting boils over into attempts to question the integrity of the election.
Mr Murrell, who is Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, resigned with immediate effect on Saturday after admitting the party had made misleading statements about its membership numbers.
On Friday, another SNP senior figure, media chief Murray Foote, stepped down as he acknowledged “serious issues” with the party’s response to reports about its membership data.
In February, the party had vehemently denied a “malicious and wholly inaccurate” Sunday Mail report revealing that 30,000 members left the party.
But figures published on Thursday as part of the SNP leadership election confirmed that the party’s membership had indeed dropped by 31,698 members since 2021.
Ballots were sent out last week in the race to succeed Nicola Sturgeon, and voting is still underway for another nine days amid the fallout from the resignations.
But all three of the SNP candidates have pledged to shake up SNP internal operations in midst of the scandals, while sources close to leadership candidate Ash Regan have suggested the campaign should be scrapped entirely and restarted.
Speaking to the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday morning, leadership candidate Kate Forbes said she would prioritise “integrity and honesty” in her campaign.
“I think at the heart of this is that the decisions within the SNP have been taken by too few people and I think that’s well recognised across the political domain. SNP members want to know that our institution is democratic, that they can influence it, that they can shape policy,” Ms Forbes said.
Meanwhile, sources close to Ms Regan have attempted to raise questions about the integrity of the election, telling The Sunday Telegraph that the existing ballots should be disregarded in light of mounting concerns.
The newspaper reports that some in her camp have floated the prospect of a legal challenge to get the contest halted.
“If members knew what they know now would they have voted the same way My suspicion is that for many, the answer is no,” they said. “They are entitled to reconsider now that they have more information.
“SNP headquarters have lied to the public, the press and to our own members. If it just goes ahead any result would be completely discredited.”
Ms Regan is seen as a distant outsider as Ms Forbes and Mr Yousaf jockey for the leadership, though analysts stress the contest is difficult to predict due to its closed-shop nature.
The source claimed that if Mr Yousaf, seen as a continuity candidate close to Ms Sturgeon, wins the contest, “his position would become untenable very quickly”.
Neither Ms Forbes nor Mr Yousaf have weighed in on calls for the race to be re-run.
In his resignation statement, Mr Murrell stressed that he had no involvement in the running of the leadership election, which is overseen by national secretary Lorna Finn.
The Southampton-based company Mi-Voice is running the contest on behalf of the party, which has run the internal contests for the SNP since 2013.
Ms Regan has challenged the arrangement, claiming it “should be a separate company that the SNP don’t have an ongoing relationship with”.2023-03-19T12:58:08Z dg43tfdfdgfd