TWO of Nicola Sturgeon’s Cabinet ministers are being challenged for their seats by disgruntled SNP members.

Shirley-Anne Somerville and Fergus Ewing are both facing selection battles after party activists forced a contest. That’s now three members of Sturgeon’s top team who will have to fight for their political survival.

On Thursday we revealed how their ministerial colleague Ash Denham was also being challenged.

Every other member of the Government standing for re-election has strolled through the first phase of the party’s selection process unopposed.

In total there are 11 sitting SNP MSPs who face a selection contest.

As well as the three ministers, backbenchers Christine Grahame, Colin Beattie, Kenneth Gibson, James Dornan, David Torrance, Stuart McMillan, Fulton MacGregor and John Mason will all need to win over local members if they want to represent the SNP in May.

Somerville, the Social Security Secretary, is a close ally of the First Minister, and has spearheaded the Scottish Government’s controversial bid to reform the Gender Recognition Act.

She told The National she welcomed the challenge for the Dunfermline and West Fife constituency.

“This is democracy in action, and I think it’s reassuring that the party has so many passionate members across the country who want to get more involved,” Somerville said.

“However, I am very confident that I remain the best choice to continue representing this area given my work with thousands of individual constituents and local organisations and businesses over the past session.”

Ewing, who is one of the few MSPs to have sat in Holyrood since 1999 and who plans on contesting next year’s election, is the Rural Economy and Tourism Secretary. He told The National: “Over the next five years there is much to be done for Inverness and Nairn constituency and, of course, Scotland as a whole.

“Above all, after a successful election we will forge ahead with the momentum we now have to regain our independence with a clear majority now supporting Yes.

“I hope the experience I have gained and record of hard work will be of value to the SNP Team in Holyrood – and to our cause of independence for Scotland.”

Sturgeon is already heading into the election without four members of her Cabinet. Aileen Campbell,

Michael Russell, Jeane Freeman and Roseanna Cunningham are all standing down.

When approached by The National, Colin Beattie, who represents Midlothian North and Musselburgh, said being challenged was “part of the democratic process”. He added: “I have proven time after time that I win elections and always drive up the SNP vote doubling my majority at the last election.

“I have a solid record of bringing in new jobs and saving existing jobs.

“Constituents receive dedicated and effective service from myself and my great team. With so many veteran parliamentarians standing down my experience will be much needed.”

Of the 73 Holyrood constituencies, there will be selection contests for the SNP in 37.

In the remaining 36, only one candidate has gone for the seat. Under party rules they simply have to secure the support of 50 members by 12pm on September 30.

Of those 36 all but two are incumbents. Robert Leslie in Orkney and Tom Willis in Shetland are both standing unopposed.

In Denham’s Edinburgh Eastern constituency, local activist Irshad Ahmed said he was trying to oust the sitting MSP because she wasn’t “pushing for independence”.

He told The National: “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.”

It’s not unprecedented for a sitting SNP MSP to be defeated in a selection contest. In 2016, Mairi Gougeon took the nomination from Nigel Don in Angus, while Toni Giuliani replaced Colin Keir in Edinburgh Western.