THE SNP president has claimed “abuse” directed at party staff only serves to “aid our enemies” amid a row over secrecy.

Michael Russell said on social media he had told the SNP’s national secretary Lorna Finn to publish membership numbers and accused unnamed “individuals” of targeting party staff with abuse.

It comes after leadership contender Ash Regan issued an ultimatum to party high command to reveal how many people were members of the SNP before 3pm on Thursday or she would hold a press conference outside the Scottish Parliament.

All three leadership contenders have called for the number to be made public and it’s understood the party’s ruling body will decide whether to release the figure later on Thursday.

Russell, who has served in the honorary role since 2020, said: “As [SNP] president I have told the national secretary I support publishing membership figures.

READ MORE: Updates as row around SNP leadership contest escalates

“I also have full confidence in her and the external verification and count. I am disgusted by the abuse directed at staff by individuals who damage our cause and aid our enemies.”

His intervention drew the ire of Conservative MSP Rachael Hamilton, who said: “Who is [Russell] describing as ‘enemies’?

“Surely the way to address this utter SNP burach is to set a responsible example, rather than calling people enemies and doing exactly the same by treating individuals with ‘disgusting abuse’.”

Chris McEleny, the general secretary of the Alba Party, said: “SNP’s internal mess is theirs to own, but it’s harmful to public discourse and will increase likelihood of harm against political opponents by calling them enemies.

“Many of us already receive threats fuelled by hyperbolic attacks. Hardly the way to win people over from No to Yes.”