MP Philippa Whitford has become the latest senior figure in the SNP to support a return by Alex Salmond to the party and the political frontline.

Whitford, who is the party’s health spokeswoman at Westminster, said she would like to see the former First Minister given a role.

And she added it would be a “dangerous” course of action for the party to prevent his return.

“Alex Salmond should be free to return to the party if that’s what he wishes. I do think so,” she told The National. “Nobody is above the law. I felt it was absolutely appropriate that these things were investigated but we have now been through a Scottish trial.

“The jury acquitted him on all charges and therefore he should be free to return to politics and return to the SNP if that is his wish.”

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Asked whether she would like to see the former First Minister come back into politics, she added: “Yes I would. It would be up to him where he should go.

“I wouldn’t want to say where he should go. It might be neither [Holyrood or Westminster], he might have a different role, but I would like to see him back in frontline politics in Scotland.”

Whitford is the latest senior SNP figure to back Salmond’s return to the party and the political frontline. The MP for Central Ayrshire, who is a breast cancer surgeon, helped to set up the campaign group NHS for Yes ahead of the 2014 referendum, where she played a key role and came to the attention of Salmond for her powerful message about the dangers the health service faced if Scotland remained in the UK.

Others who have called for Salmond to be allowed back into the party include Joanna Cherry, the SNP’s justice and home affairs spokesperson at Westminster, East Lothian MP Kenny MacAskill, and former health secretary Alex Neil MSP.

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The former First Minister was cleared of all 13 sexual assault charges he faced on Monday after a two-week trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.

He said after the trial he would reveal evidence he could not present in court showing there was a concerted effort to discredit him, and is now writing a book about what he called the “nightmare” of the past two years.

Salmond lost his Gordon seat at the General Election in 2017 and resigned from the SNP in August 2018.

Party rules say he must wait until August this year before he can reapply for membership. It is possible that if he is readmitted to the party, he could be selected for the next Holyrood election. Currently, the SNP’s selection process for candidates has been suspended in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

No date has yet been set for when it will resume and there has been even some talk about whether the Holyrood election, due to take place in May 2021, will take place, or whether it could be postponed until 2022.

Meanwhile, a Scottish Parliamentary inquiry will be held later into a botched Scottish Government investigation into complaints made by two civil servants against Salmond. It was due to take place after the trial, but it too has been suspended because of the public health crisis.

The Scottish Government investigation was ruled unlawful after the former First Minister challenged it in the courts. The Government had to cover the cost of his £512,000 legal fees.