FORMER Scottish constitution secretary and current National columnist Michael Russell has been appointed as political director at the SNP's independence unit.

The task force was unveiled in January, with depute leader Keith Brown saying it would create policy papers and campaign materials to "fire up" the Yes movement.

The unit takes in existing headquarters staff and had recruited former local government and community empowerment minister Marco Biagi as a consultant, but he stood down from the role last month.

Now, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has congratulated Russell on his appointment to the top job.

She said: "Delighted that the SNP's National Executive Committee has approved my nomination of Mike Russell as political director of the HQ independence unit.

"He will oversee the development of the party’s independence campaign, as we look ahead to #indyref2 later in this Parliament."

Party president Russell did not stand for re-election at this year's Holyrood vote.

Responding to the news, he tweeted: "Pleased to take on political direction of the independence work and grateful to Nicola Sturgeon and the NEC.

"Look forward to working with the vast range of enthusiastic talent, within and outwith the party, which is committed to a positive, inclusive – and successful – #indyref2 campaign."

Brown has previously described the group as the "final piece in the jigsaw" to deliver independence.

Revealing the task force in January, the MSP also said it would work to establish a national information service to help people make an “informed choice” on independence.