PRESSURE is growing on the SNP to reveal the true extent of their membership – amid fears a lack of transparency is making it harder for candidates to campaign effectively.

A briefing paper sent to candidates and seen by this paper said that the firm carrying out the election on behalf the party would tell the SNP’s national secretary Lorna Finn the “turnout figures” for the vote.

Mi-Voice is the company running the election for the SNP and has run its selections and deputy leader elections for more than 10 years.

But party figures have called on the SNP to come clean about membership levels.

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Writing in this paper in February, SNP president Michael Russell gave a low-ball figure of around 65,000.

The Mail on Sunday reported at the start of this week party membership could be around 78,000 – around 50,000 less than the party had claimed in 2019.

The National:

But the party has so far refused to confirm the number – even to the candidates in the running.

A source within Ash Regan’s campaign – the self-confessed outsider in the contest – told The National not having the number made it harder to campaign as they were unable to set accurate targets of the number of members they should contact.

The source said: “We would have enjoyed more up front transparency. Everybody is entitled to that.

“Surely when we find out the result we’re going to find out the electorate.”

They also raised concerns that so-called “ghost members” – those who had not paid their membership dues recently but were still members under a three-month grace period – could be allowed to vote in the election.

Nothing in the briefing notes sent to the candidates suggested this would not be the case.

Under a heading outlining who is allowed to vote, the briefing paper said: “Anyone who is over 16 and was a member by February 15th, when nominations opened, and has maintained their membership since then.”

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Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil has called on the party to release the figures, as has Ian Blackford.

As former Westminster leader for the SNP, Blackford was seen as being close to party HQ.

The National:

But he told the Mail on Sunday: “It is important that we have an open contest. It would be better if we know how many people have voted and what percentage of the membership that represents.”

MacNeil said: “I don’t see the advantage of hiding this. I think when they started, they were making such a big deal with more numbers, more numbers, more numbers and then when they went back and then when they went back a thousand, they were a little bit embarrassed.”

But a senior party source told The National the turnout number – if revealed – would still not give a wholly accurate picture of the size of the SNP membership.

The SNP did not respond to a request for comment. Mi-Voice declined to comment when approached by The National.