THE SNP have extended their deadline by a week for prospective Holyrood 2021 constituency candidates to put themselves forward.

Nicola Sturgeon’s party moved the date from last Monday to September 21 after it was inundated with members wanting to stand for election next May.

A letter to SNP MSP hopefuls was sent by Angus MacLeod, the party’s national secretary.

The correspondence, obtained by The National, said: “You’ll be aware of the volume of work that the candidate assessment committee has faced over the last few weeks, and while that has progressed at an unprecedented pace, I have decided that more time is required to complete their work and the work of the candidate appeals panel so that when we enter the selection contests, we have complete certainty on who the approved candidates are.

“As a consequence, the deadline for expressing interest in a constituency contest will move to September 21 at 4pm.”

The letter went on to say that the maximum number of constituencies a prospective candidate can express an interest in is two.

A poll published last month put the SNP is on course for an unprecedented majority at Holyrood.

The YouGov research found that 57% of voters in Scotland planned to back the SNP in May, an increase of three percentage points from YouGov’s last survey in April.

The poll also put support for independence at 53%, up two points from January, when YouGov last posed the question, and just one point behind a poll conducted for The Sunday Times in June.

The YouGov polling last month represented the highest levels of support for the SNP and independence recorded by the company.

If the result was repeated at the Scottish parliamentary election in eight months’ time the SNP would return 74 MSPs, an increase of 11 compared with now, according to Professor Sir John Curtice, the political scientist.

In 2011, the only other time a majority was returned at Holyrood, the SNP under Alex Salmond had 69 MSPs elected, a majority of nine.

The First Minister has described the forthcoming election as the “most important in Scotland’s history.”

Writing in Holyrood Magazine’s 2020 annual review last month, she said she will “relish the chance to return to politics as normal once circumstances allow, especially as we look ahead to next year’s election”.

She said: “That election will be, in my view without question, the most important in Scotland’s history.

“Not only will it provide a stark choice between the progressive policy platform offered by the SNP and the utterly regressive agenda of the Conservatives, it will be an election which is, at its heart, about democracy.

“We are privileged to live in a democracy. But if that is to mean anything it must mean accepting the results of free and fair democratic elections.”

She also confirmed the SNP manifesto for May will include a commitment for a second referendum, adding “in the event of another election win for the SNP, it would be utterly untenable and unsustainable for the Conservatives to stand in the way of the democratic will of the people of Scotland”.

A wide range of prospective candidates have thrown their hats in the ring to win the party’s nominations. High profile internal contests are taking place in Edinburgh Central where former party deputy leader Angus Robertson and former Scottish Government minister Marco Biagi are among the contenders. Joanna Cherry had expressed an interest in standing but withdrew. The winner will be aiming to win the Tory held seat for the SNP.