THE MSP James Dornan has become the first candidate to declare his intention to run in the SNP depute leadership contest.

Dornan said he would be seeking nominations for the position which has become vacant following the resignation of Angus Robertson on Saturday.

The Glasgow Cathcart MSP, who holds the position of convener of the education committee at Holyrood, made the announcement on social media this morning as speculation mounted about which politicians would enter the race.

"As of February 5th 2018, I would like to announce that I will be seeking nominations for the position of Depute Leader for the Scottish National Party, when the process commences," he posted on Twitter.

It is expected that the next deputy will come from the Westminster group, although Derek Mackay, the finance secretary, and Humza Yousaf, the transport minister, have been mentioned as possible contenders.

It is understood that Tommy Sheppard, MP, the former comedy club boss, is considering a bid, as is Joanna Cherry, MP, a QC. It is probable that one or the other will stand, as both are seen as left-wingers and possibly regarded as more in tune with the grassroots membership than Westminster group leader Ian Blackford, a former investment banker.

Among other potential candidates is Kirsty Blackman, deputy leader of the Westminster group.

Blackford has said asked he was not ready to make an announcement.

Some within the SNP believe a passage in Robertson’s resignation letter, in which he emphasised his mandate as deputy as a “Westminster SNP leader and parliamentarian representing a rural constituency”, was meant as an endorsement for Blackford.

Some Sunday newspapers were briefed by SNP sources that they believed Blackford should take over unopposed in a “coronation”. However, other insiders regard him as less effective than Robertson at Prime Minister's Questions.

Former SNP minister Alex Neil has said he believed there should be a contest to elect the next deputy and that it made sense for them to be Westminster-based as the leader is at Holyrood.

He told today's Times: “My view is the more the merrier. It’s better to have a competition and proper debate, and there is a debate to be had about where we go from here, and give us a choice.”

Neil, who left the cabinet after the 2016 Holyrood election, added: “The best leaders have strong deputies — you want a strong deputy who will assert their authority.”

The timetable for the contest is expected to be announced early next month and the new depute unveiled at the SNP's conference in Aberdeen in June.