ONE of Scotland’s leading newspaper journalists has revealed his ambition to be elected as an MSP next year and help the country become independent.

Richard Walker, editor of the Sunday National and founding editor of The National, has thrown his hat into the ring to win the SNP’s nomination in Ayr.

The constituency is currently held by the Tory MSP John Scott and Walker wants to clinch it in May for the SNP for the first time.

Walker was born within the constituency, in Troon, and has enjoyed more than 40 years working in newspapers, starting out working for local papers in Ayrshire before pursuing a long and successful career on national titles.

As editor of the Sunday Herald in 2014 he committed the title to support a Yes vote commissioning a striking front page cover by the artist and writer Alasdair Gray to announce the editorial position.

Walker, who has three grown-up children and lives in Ayr, said: “I have been campaigning for independence since before the 2014 referendum bringing the Sunday Herald for Yes and founding The National and The Sunday National.

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“I believe I have a lot of ideas, experience and skills which I would like to put at the disposal of the SNP and the wider Yes movement.”

He said with the prospect of a second referendum in the next Holyrood term he wanted to play an active role in a new campaign from “a different angle”.

“I think we will see Scotland become independent following a second referendum. What better prospect than to be part of a parliament which helps to shape the new Scotland once independence is won?” he said.

“I want to see a Scotland that can take the best decisions for the people who live here and a Scotland that isn’t beholden to a Conservative majority at Westminster that it has not voted for.”

Walker will from today be stepping aside from his duties at the Sunday National which will be edited by The National and Glasgow Times editor Callum Baird over the coming weeks.

He said: “I am taking a step back from the Sunday National. I think that is the right and fair thing to do. I wouldn’t want to be making editorial decisions about selection contests.

“The very nature that there would be a perception of a conflict suggests that I should take a step back.”

Baird said: “Richard Walker is an inspiration – a genius newspaper editor who launched both The National and the Sunday National and brought the Sunday Herald out for Yes. He has been nothing but a tireless campaigner for independence ever since I met him.

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“He’s got our blessing to follow this dream and nothing but our best wishes. If selected as a candidate and elected to the Scottish Parliament, we’re sure he would be a huge asset to the Yes movement at Holyrood, just as he has been here. And don’t worry – your newspaper will be in good hands.”

Ayr is a key target seat for the SNP in 2021. Scott won the seat for the Tories in the first ever Scottish Parliament by-election in March 2000 and has held it since.

He re-took the constituency in 2016 with a majority of just 750 votes ahead of the second placed SNP.

The other SNP candidates in the Ayr selection contest are: Richard Arkless, former MP for Dumfries and Galloway; Siobhian Brown, South Ayrshire councillor; Jahangir Hanif, former Glasgow councillor;  Gavin Lundy, a former convener of Young Scots for Independence and Annie McIndoe, convener of the Troon branch of the SNP.

Should Walker be elected to Holyrood he follows other Scottish journalists in making the switch into the political arena.

Former Sunday Times Scotland editor and ex-Herald deputy editor Joan McAlpine was first elected as an SNP MSP for the South of Scotland in 2011 and continues to represent the area. She is standing again in May.

Former Daily Record editor Murray Foote and author of “the vow” before the 2014 vote is the SNP’s communications chief at Holyrood.