AN SNP activist is trying to oust a Scottish Government minister in a bid to become the party’s Holyrood candidate for Edinburgh Eastern.

Irshad Ahmed said his decision to stand against incumbent Ash Denham was because she wasn’t “pushing for independence”.

She’s now one of six sitting MSPs to face a challenge from a party member, though she’s the first Cabinet Secretary and the first female MSP facing a selection battle.

Ahmed told The National: “Irrespective of how an MSP has performed in Parliament, there is no automatic right to be the candidate again.

“I want to deliver independence and not administer devolution. No progress is being made or firm plans prepared. I am not prepared to accept Boris Johnson vetoing a second independence referendum.

“Present SNP policy is for under-represented groups such as BAME individuals to participate in selection contests to try and ensure diversity.

READ MORE: Senior Amnesty International leader quits to focus on SNP MSP bid

“The SNP has a very fair and democratic process of ensuring anyone who wishes to stand in a constituency, subject to passing vetting, can do so. The members of that constituency will decide who they want as their candidate to fight the forthcoming election.

“Ash may be popular in the area, but after speaking to local members, they want to push for independence, which doesn’t seem to be on Ash’s agenda.”

On his Facebook page, one local asked why he was moving against a sitting SNP government minister, accusing Ahmed of misogyny.

“I do firmly believe that everyone has the right to challenge in cases where there is an underperforming MSP, however, this does not make sense,” she said.

“I do not know Mrs Denham but I cannot see why she needs to be challenged. She beat six others in the initial selection, went on to beat Kezia Dugdale, has been an excellent MSP who was then promoted to a minister and has gone on to excel in that role.

“She certainly does not appear to operating at a low level of competence deserving of being ousted.”

Ahmed replied to say he was standing as “we require to deliver independence”.

He added: “Six years on from the last referendum, the situation has never been more favourable, but little has been done. Mandates ignored, policies not developed and most worryingly a veto granted to Boris Johnson. I’m standing to ensure we deliver, not talk about independence. SNP candidates must commit to delivering the will of the Scottish people, not stupidly taking dictation from an English Tory Government.”

Ahmed’s candidacy was boosted by former Edinburgh Eastern MSP Kenny MacAskill. He commented “good man” and shared the announcement on social media.

READ MORE: Keir Starmer: Indyref2 will have a mandate if the SNP win Holyrood in 2021

Denham did not respond to The National’s request for a comment.

She announced her intention to stand again for the seat on Monday.

The MSP told followers on social media: “I’m delighted to confirm that I am seeking re-selection as the SNP candidate for Edinburgh Eastern in next year’s Scottish Parliament elections. It has been an honour to serve this constituency and I am asking members for their continuing support to win again in 2021 and push on towards independence.”

Kenny Gibson, James Dornan, David Torrance, Stuart MacMillan and John Mason are all facing challenges for their seats.

It’s unusual, though not unprecedented, for a sitting SNP MSP to be defeated in selection contests.

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