ONE of the longest serving SNP MPs has given his support to Chris McEleny in the contest to become the next party depute.

In a surprise move Angus MacNeil endorsed McEleny who many observers would see as one of the underdogs in the race. First elected in 2005, the MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar stated that in his view McEleny is best placed to be Nicola Sturgeon’s new depute.

“I’m backing Chris as I believe that putting communities at the heart of a future campaign will help us deliver independence,” said MacNeil.

“Being neither a member of the Westminster group or Holyrood group I think he will be well placed to be a key link between both parliaments as he supports Nicola Sturgeon as her new Depute. “

Welcoming the endorsement McEleny, who is SNP group leader on Inverclyde Council said: “With the Scottish Government focused on improving the lives of our nation and Angus, alongside our team of MPs continuing to stand up to the UK Government for the betterment of Scotland, it is up to each and every one of us to make the case for independence.

“As depute leader working together with all our hard working SNP representatives will be key to delivering independence in our time.”

McEleny is one of four contenders in the contest to succeed Angus Robertson who stood down from the role in February after losing his Moray Westminster seat in last year’s snap General Election. He is running against Economy Secretary Keith Brown, senior activist Julie Hepburn and Glasgow Cathcart MSP James Dornan.

Chris Law, the MP for Dundee West, was yesterday being discussed as a fifth possible contender. Law was a prominent figure in the Yes movement ahead of the 2014 independence referendum after driving a converted Green Goddess around Scotland to gather support. Nominations for candidates close on April 13, and a series of hustings will take place between April 21 and May 13.

Ballots will be issued on May 18, with votes counted and the result declared on June 8, the first day of the SNP conference in Aberdeen.