A MENTAL health nurse from an ethnic minority background is being lined up as the candidate best placed for the SNP to retain Derek Mackay’s seat for the party.

Michelle Campbell, who is of Scottish and East African heritage and who returned to her NHS duties at the height of the Covid pandemic, is being discussed as the likely contender for the Renfrewshire North and West seat for the poll next year.

Should she win the internal selection contest and get elected as an MSP she would be the first woman from a BAME background into Holyrood.

The 36-year-old was elected onto Renfrewshire Council in 2017 and in 2019 won the councillor of the year at the SNP’s annual St Andrew’s Day dinner.

She is also a member of the SNP’s Social Justice Commission which the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set up to build the case for a more economically just nation under independence.

Campbell spent 12 years building a career in mental health nursing in the NHS and since February has worked for Gavin Newlands, the SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North.

She continues to be a registered mental health nurse and at the height of the Covid pandemic in April returned to duty at Glasgow’s Leverndale Hospital, which cares for people facing mental health problems – donating her earnings from the shift to Paisley charity, Recovery Across Mental Health (RAMH).

Mackay sits as an independent MSP for Renfrewshire North and West after he was suspended from the SNP in February for sending inappropriate texts to a boy of 16.

READ MORE: Derek Mackay 'resurfaces' for first time since texting scandal

Campbell told The National she was flattered to be discussed as a possible candidate for Mackay’s seat.

“It is certainly something that I will reflect on, but there is a long way to go in the process of selecting candidates,” she said.

“The Black Lives’s Matter campaign is not just about the names of street signs or about statues, it is how in a modern society we can be progressive [about political representation].”

She added: “It is a huge part of politics to make people’s voices heard. Politics has been my passion in life and my route into politics has been through grassroots campaigns.”

One SNP insider told The National: “Michelle has a very good reputation as a councillor, she is hard-working and articulate and would make an excellent MSP.”

Mackay had been regarded as one of the frontrunners to succeed Nicola Sturgeon when she leaves the SNP leadership role she’s held since 2014.

After the texting scandal there was nervousness among some in the SNP about whether the party could regain the seat.

A council source told The National in February that rival parties were “smelling blood” and were likely to ramp up calls for a by-election.

That would be bad news, according to one local SNP campaigner, who said: “We don’t know what will happen, but this isn’t good for the party.”

READ MORE: SNP seek advice to improve BAME representation at Holyrood

One long-term SNP voter, Andy, told the paper he’d struggle to back Mackay at the ballot box again. “I’ve heard worse,” he said, “but what he’s done is terrible.”

“My Tory mate’s going mental over it and saying we were all idiots to vote for the SNP in the first place.”

It emerged yesterday the SNP has sought legal advice on how to get more people from ethnic minorities elected to Holyrood.

Only four MSPs have been from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

The SNP suspended its process to select candidates for Holyrood at the start of the pandemic but is to restart the internal elections soon.

At their last conference, SNP delegates agreed a motion recognising the progress made in increasing the number of women elected.

However, it warned that BAME, disabled people and other minority groups continue to be under-represented at Holyrood.