THE SNP’s chief executive Peter Murrell is facing the prospect of a no confidence motion, according to reports.

Party members have said that they are preparing to move against Murrell, who is married to Nicola Sturgeon, and aim to have him suspended at the next meeting of the party’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee (NEC).

He has become a focus of discontent within the SNP over decisions around the forthcoming round of parliamentary selections and a perceived lack of accountability over rulings at party HQ.

Last week Kenny MacAskill, a former justice secretary, became the first SNP MP to call for Murrell to be suspended over leaked WhatsApp messages.

A copy of the texts, made public this month, appeared to show the party’s top official calling for pressure to be put on police who were investigating Alex Salmond, the former First Minister, over allegations of sexual assault of which he was subsequently cleared.

Allies of Salmond have alleged that a conspiracy involving senior party figures tried to bring him down.

Murrell is at odds with a Scottish parliamentary committee investigating the Scottish Government’s botched handling of complaints against Salmond.

Committee members sought emails and social media materials from him and were angry at the limited documentation he presented.

Murrell told the committee he was not present at meetings in his family home in 2018, between Sturgeon and Salmond, during a Scottish Government probe into harassment claims against Salmond. Murrell said his wife did not tell him their purpose.

One parliamentarian said tactics against Murrell have been discussed among MSPs, MPs and grassroots activists over a range of concerns.

According to today's Sunday Times a move to raise the issue at next month's conference looks unlikely to succeed but activists believe they have a good chance of getting it on to the NEC agenda.

Murrell has been SNP chief executive for more than 20 years. Before that, he worked in Salmond’s constituency office.

Despite the First Minster's popularity there is growing discontent within SNP over a range of issues including over the path to independence and the lack of an alternative route to secure the goal should Boris Johnson continue to refuse the transfer of powers to Holyrood to hold an agreed and legally watertight new vote.

There is also anger among some members over the way Salmond has been treated.

A further tension exists over the party’s stance of gender recognition issues.  One MSP told the Times that trust between the leadership and some activists had broken down to the point that “if the leadership said the sky was blue they would go outside to check”.

Adding to the unrest the SNP is also faces a series of internal elections as prospective nominees battle it out in selection contests for next year’s Holyrood elections.

The SNP took 61 of Holyrood’s 129 seats in 2016 and is expected to win more. However, 16 MSPs elected on an SNP ticket last time, more than a quarter of its MSPs, will not stand again.

Thirty five sitting MSPs have been renominated without a contest but several sitting members and ministers face the possibility of deselection.

Neither the SNP nor Murrell supplied comments to the Sunday Times.