THE SNP’s Ivan McKee has become the first parliamentarian to back Economy Secretary Keith Brown for the position of depute party leader.

McKee has worked with Brown for two years as parliamentary liaison officer at Holyrood, a role where he is the minister’s “eyes and ears” among backbenchers.

The Glasgow Provan MSP said he believed Brown’s experience in senior positions in government and his work on the economy and infrastructure – including the successful delivery of the Queensferry Crossing – made him ideally placed for the role.

McKee underlined Brown’s economy brief as being crucial in a future independence referendum when the economic arguments are likely to be crucial.

Brown, a former Royal Marine, announced he was standing in the contest in The National on Monday. He was the third candidate to come forward, and joins fellow MSP James Dornan and well-known activist Julie Hepburn.

“What we need is someone with a solid record of achievement in difficult circumstances, and I believe Keith has shown that in the way he has managed first the transport and now the economy briefs in the Scottish Government,” McKee said.

“I know and like both James and Julie. I have huge respect for the work they have done for the party over many years and continue to do, but neither has worked and delivered at the highest level on a consistent basis as Keith has.

“We need to remember that the economy was one of the key factors in the last referendum and will be in the next one. Someone who can make the case for independence in those terms, as Keith can, is invaluable to the movement. We should also not forget that Keith is the cabinet minister responsible for delivery of iconic infrastructure projects including the Queensferry Crossing and the Borders Railway – on time and under budget – and both the banning of fracking and the initiation of the Scottish National Investment Bank fall under his brief.”

He added: “The depute leader over the next critical period needs to be someone who has delivered at the highest level in difficult circumstances, who can build organisations, who listens to people and then who acts with purpose to make things happen. That’s why I’m backing Keith.”

McKee was tipped to enter the contest and had been approached to do so by other parliamentarians and local activists, but said he was not putting his name forward. He said: “I am honoured to have been considered as a contender for this important role. I believe I have much to offer the party, and the wider Yes movement, as we move towards our goal of independence, but, having carefully considered all factors, I think there are others better placed to fulfil this particular role than me at this time.”