FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon has addressed the escalating row over the SNP leadership ballot.

It comes after Kate Forbes and Ash Regan called for independent auditors to be brought in to oversee the vote, which opened on Monday.

Sturgeon told reporters at Holyrood that she did not understand the specific concerns, and said she had “100% confidence” in the integrity of the process.

READ MORE: All the updates from the SNP leadership race as vote descends into row

The outgoing First Minister said: “The concerns, I don’t understand to be honest what the specific nature of the concerns are, but it’s incumbent on those raising these matters to be specific.

“We have a process of elections within the SNP that is not new. It hasn’t been created for this leadership election. It has been used for internal elections for some time.

“The company, MiVoice it’s called, is used by a range of membership organisations across the country … it’s an accredited organisation for trade union elections and ballots as I understand.

“It’s a tried and tested system so let’s have confidence, I have confidence, I have 100% confidence, in the integrity of that system.”

Sturgeon further said that her advice to “all three of the candidates [is] to address the concerns that the people of Scotland have about the day-to-day concerns that they’re dealing with”.

“That’s how we retain the trust of the people of Scotland that, over my years of leadership, has been demonstrated in eight landslide election victories,” she added.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney also said on Thursday that he does not understand what the concerns around the SNP leadership ballot are exactly.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland, Swinney said: “My experience, and I have got a lot of experience of elections within the SNP, I have been a candidate in many of them, I ran many of them as the party secretary over many years.

“I have also seen this process we are going through just now operating in the election of previous deputy leaders of the party … and nobody, nobody, has raised an issue about the authority of those processes.

“They have been completely straightforward, efficient, independently organised processes, and this is exactly the same.

“So I don’t know what this is all about.”

Members of the SNP’s ruling National Executive Committee are understood to be being asked via email if they consent to the publication of the membership data.

All three leadership hopefuls, as well as a host of senior SNP figures and NEC members, have publicly backed the release of the data.

However, there has been less support for Forbes and Regan’s calls for auditors to be brought in. That instead has seen the party divided, with accusations of acting like the disgraced former US president Donald Trump being thrown around.

Forbes's statement calling for auditors said: “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.”