A SENIOR minister in Nicola Sturgeon's government and a close ally of Alex Salmond have both put themselves forward to be elected SNP President, the National can reveal.

Brexit Secretary Michael Russell and Craig Murray, a supporter of the former First Minister, have put their hats into the ring for the role.

Russell has also served in a number of roles in Salmond's governments from 2007 to 2014, latterly as education secretary.

The two men are to be among the candidates to be announced later today.
It is understood that former MP Corri Wilson is a third contender.

The election comes about after the long serving President Ian Hughton, a former MEP, has decided to stand down.

Russell told The National that he had been approached by a number of people in the party asking him to stand.

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"It was suggested to me that I should put myself forward for the role. I have done that so I will see what happens," he said. Previous post holders have included Winnie Ewing.

The role is an honorary one and traditionally one held by a senior long serving politician. The office bearer would be expected to work and support across all levels of the party including the leadership and grassroots.

The SNP's constitution states that it is an honorary role, elected for distinguished service to the party and is not an executive post.

"The fact it's not an executive role makes it attractive to me. I don't think it should be used as an executive role," added Russell who stands down as a MSP before the 2021 Holyrood election.

Murray said he had told Salmond about his intention to stand for the role of President but that it was not the former First Minister's idea.

"It was my own idea to put my name forward," Murray told The National.

"I think there is a feeling among a lot of people at the moment that party HQ is much too cosy, not open enough to the members, and that there needs to be some sort of check on them. So that's why I decided to stand."

Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, was charged earlier this year for contempt of court over blog posts he published before, during and after the Salmond trial. The former First Minister was cleared of all sexual assault charges after a trial in March.

The former diplomat, who is now a blogger, attended two days of the trial at the High Court in Edinburgh before writing about it on his website.