A SENIOR leader at global human rights giant Amnesty International has quit his job to concentrate on his bid to stand for the SNP at next year’s Holyrood election.

Osama Bhutta is seeking the SNP nomination in Cunninghame North, currently held by the party’s Kenneth Gibson.

His announcement comes after former SNP MP Corri Wilson also revealed she is standing for selection against Gibson.

Bhutta has been Amnesty’s global communications director for the last four years. Before that he worked in the Middle East for broadcaster

Al Jazeera and was a candidate for the SNP in 2010.

He said: “Working on other people’s causes has been incredible, but now I want to come back to my own.

“Amnesty is non-political, so I had to decide between the comfort of staying in my job or throwing my hat in the ring to campaign with the people of Cunninghame North.

“I chose the latter. Now I hope they’ll choose me too.”

On the move, he continued: “The next crop of MSPs entering Holyrood will face planet-sized problems.

“We need major shifts to deal with climate change, to make things fairer for people after Covid-19, and to create our new state. All of these things will be driven by people power. It’s people who make change, and MSPs have to be part of that.

“The old model of a parliamentarian standing up to make a speech every now and again and turn up for a photo-op is dead. When I said I was thinking of standing last month, I said there was too big a gap between parliament and the street.

“The main thing I was looking for was constituencies who wanted to do things in a modern, collaborative, people-powered way. That’s how the conversation with SNP members in North Ayrshire started.”

As revealed in the Sunday National, Cunninghame North’s constituency association called for all sitting SNP MSPs to face a selection contest ahead of next year’s election – even its own.

Gibson, the constituency’s current MSP, has represented the area since 2007.

Bhutta said: “Many members have told me they currently feel disrespected, underappreciated or worse.

“That’s come across loud and clear to me from within most of the branches.

“I can’t speak to who-did-what. What I do know is that I’ve consistently heard about people’s hurt. And that hurts me, because they are great campaigners and we need them motivated and united to deliver the biggest Yes vote we possibly can.

“I’ve learned a lot about activism these last few years from people around the world. Coming back home, there were far easier SNP selection contests for me to enter.

“What attracted me to Cunninghame North was all these great activists. Their passion, vision and track record is immense.

“In these next few weeks of the contest we’ll talk about what we can do together for our people.”

He has already won public endorsement from SNP members in the constituency.

Grace McLean, a former North Ayrshire councillor, has been a member of the party for more than 20 years. She said: “I’m pleased Osama has entered the contest.

“It is easy to remain stuck in old ways but as an independent Scotland beckons it has never been more important to choose an SNP candidate who is outward-looking, experienced beyond the local and with a proven track record of harnessing people of different outlooks and backgrounds to work collaboratively together, valuing and respecting their contributions.”

Helen Stewart, Cumbrae SNP’s political education officer, has resigned her position in order to be able to support Bhutta’s campaign.

She added: “Osama is a breath of fresh air. He has got the campaigning credentials to get us to independence and the global experience to help ease us into the world afterwards.

“A lot of other constituencies are getting new SNP candidates for next year and Cunninghame North could also do with a new approach.”