THE SNP is set for an explosive selection battle in Inverclyde after prominent councillor Chris McEleny launched an audacious bid to unseat and replace sitting MSP Stuart McMillan.

The local politician, who has come to prominence thanks to his criticism of the party’s leadership and his staunch support for a Plan B for independence, says electing him over the incumbent will help put more working class voices into Holyrood.

McMillan hasn't reacted to the challenge yet, saying he's too busy dealing with the fallout after a coronavirus cluster was identified in Inverclyde yesterday.

It’s rare for a sitting SNP MSP to be challenged by a party colleague.

Though in 2016, Mairi Gougeon took the nomination from Nigel Don in Angus, while Tony Giuliani replaced Colin Keir in Edinburgh Western.

In a letter to local party members, McEleny said: “I have a strong track record gained over the past decade as your Inverclyde Council SNP leader. It would be the privilege of my life to represent our whole community in our nations Parliament.

“The Coronavirus has affected each and every one of us and it has fundamentally changed the way we live our lives. I have been overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness people have shown across our community to help keep each other safe. “ 

He added: “As we enter the nomination period for the Holyrood elections, now more than ever I believe that Scotland must be an independent country so that we can choose to build a fairer nation as opposed to having the policies of Boris Johnson imposed upon us by a UK Government we simply do not vote for. 

“It would be an honour to be your SNP candidate for Greenock and Inverclyde and I pledge to you that I would continue to be a strong voice for Inverclyde that will with every fibre of my being stand up for Scotland’s right to choose its own future as an independent nation.’’

Asked why he thought he could a better job than McMillan, McEleny said: “Ultimately in a healthy democracy it’s good that people can have a choice. Boris Johnson doesn’t want to give the people of Scotland a choice on their future but I want to give people a choice to select a candidate that they know has been campaigning to ensure that Scotland’s right to self determination is not vetoed by a UK government we do not vote for.“ 

McEleny’s bid was supported by All Under One Banner. They told The National: “The Independence movement needs a working class voice like Chris McEleny in the Scottish Parliament”

Taking to Twitter, McMillan said: “I've been contacted by many people about next year's Scottish Parliament election. My focus today is about the #COVID19 cluster in Port Glasgow and I will make a statement about re-selection in due course.”