BOTH Kate Forbes and Ash Regan have called for independent auditors to oversee the SNP leadership election.

It comes after all three leadership candidates, and a host of parliamentarians, called for the publication of SNP membership numbers.

On Wednesday evening, Forbes’s campaign manager issued a statement on behalf of the Finance Secretary which called into question the integrity of the “third party company operating the ballot process”.

The statement read: “Some concerns have been raised in various quarters about the integrity of the ballot processes for the current SNP leadership contest.

“Some of these concerns are based on hearsay or are from bad faith actors. However, others are being openly expressed by individuals within the SNP of longstanding.

“I have written two letters thus far to the National Secretary regarding the ballot processes. I have not yet had a response.

“There seems to be a perception that the third party company operating the ballot process is a) independent and b) are responsible for the entire process.

The National:

“This is not the case – they are simply a company contracted by the SNP to provide services to their client’s specification. This is entirely different.”

On Wednesday evening, a spokesperson for the SNP said candidates “have already been made aware” that the responsibility for the leadership election “does not rest with any member of staff”.

Meanwhile, Gavin Newlands, SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, hit out at Forbes’s team on social media.

He said: “I can’t believe this Trumpian nonsense has now hit my own party. The vote is being carried out by a highly regarded and independent third party.

“Quite frankly, this is just #fakenews crap. I thought better of Kate’s camp.”

It is understood that the party plans to publish the number of votes cast, the percentage share and the turnout of the leadership election once the ballot closes.

Forbes’s statement continued: “The SNP themselves remain ultimately accountable and responsible for many of the processes, oversight and ultimate integrity of the ballot.

“The fact that questions are being asked can only further undermine trust in SNP HQ. This is not a position I wish to see. We all agree that the party must unify around any newly elected leader.

“I have asked that the SNP appoint a robust, experienced, third-party auditor of both the ballot processes and the eventual tally of the vote. This third party must have full oversight of all membership numbers, data and processes. This should be done without delay.”

Elsewhere, Kirk Torrance, an adviser to Regan, posted on his social media that “independent auditors will give reassurance to @theSNP members + the general public that this ballot is conducted properly”.

“This should have been the case from the outset”, he added.

MPs continued to react to the news, with Alison Thewliss re-tweeting Torrance’s tweet with a GIF that said: “Stop the madness.”