There is "tremendous mess" in the SNP, the new interim chief executive said yesterday.

SNP President Mike Russell, who has stepped in to replace Peter Murrell, said the voting process for the new leader must go ahead regardless.

Mr Murrell quit after taking responsibility for misleading the media on party membership numbers.

All three candidates vying for the leadership of the SNP have pledged to reform its operations.

Mr Murrell, who is married to departing party leader Nicola Sturgeon, resigned with immediate effect on Saturday, saying he had become a distraction to the leadership race.

He had been set to face a vote of no confidence by the National Executive Committee (NEC) had he not stepped down, the BBC has been told.


His resignation came a day after that of Murray Foote, the SNP's head of media at Holyrood. He had previously described press reports about the membership numbers as "inaccurate" and "drivel".

However, an NEC source told the BBC that Mr Foote had been "thrown under the bus" by Mr Murrell.

The party last week confirmed there had been a big drop in membership numbers.

Mr Russell told the BBC that the SNP was "basically a good party", but things had gone "spectacularly wrong in recent weeks".

He said: "I think it is fair to say 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."

Mr Russell said the most important thing now was that "they have a fair electoral process that produces a clear accepted outcome".

Rebuild trust

"We have got to have this concluded in the next eight days and then...the new leader has to look at the party and say let's rebuild this and let's rebuild the trust of Scotland."

He added: "This has not been an edifying process. There hasn't been a contested leadership in the SNP for 19 years, and it shows."

Mr Russell said he did not know that the SNP membership numbers had dropped by about a third over about two years, and said he did not know if it was related to the controversial Gender Recognition Reform bill.

"We were losing members - and we were losing members that we should have known about, absolutely," he said.

"We were clearly not told about that. That is something I want to know why that took place, but I don't want to know it this week.

"What I want to know this week is we have got a process we can complete and can get a new leader of the party."

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