MICHAEL Russell has announced he is stepping down from his role as SNP president. 

The former MSP and senior minister announced he is in the process of taking on a new role in land reform, subject to parliamentary approval.

In a resignation letter sent to Humza Yousaf seen by The National, the former minister spoke of an "unprecedented year for the SNP".

"As a result as president of the party I have been called upon to undertake a whole range of unexpected tasks - which I was glad to do - and I hope my contribution over the last nine months has helped to steady the ship," he said. 

The National: SNP President Michael Russell speaks during a rally for Irish unification organised by Pro-unity group Ireland's Future at the Ulster Hall in Belfast. Picture date: Wednesday November 23, 2022..

Russell (above) explained he is in the process of beginning a new job focused on land reform, prior to parliamentary approval.

He added: “I am glad to see you now firmly in the vanguard of a whole new SNP generation which has taken over the key positions of responsibility in Government, Parliament, council chambers and the party.”

As well as this, Russell will also no longer be writing his regular column for The National.

He explained February will mark 50 years since the first time he voted SNP while May will mark 50 years of membership.

Russell was first appointed to the role of SNP president in 2020. 

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“Given that, and the fact that I am now 70, I had thought to step away from my party responsibilities at some stage over the next year but the timescale for fulfilling that intention has now been accelerated by circumstances," he added. 

Russell also served as an MSP and held a number of Cabinet positions in that time, including the roles for education and the constitution.

Humza Yousaf has since released a statement, offering his "heartfelt thanks" to Russell "for his outstanding contribution to the party over almost five decades - a true stalwart of the SNP and the wider independence movement".

Reacting to the news on social media, the SNP’s former Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “I have had the privilege of working with [Russell] over many decades in [the SNP].

“He is a man of diverse talents and I am sorry he is stepping back from being party president although I am happy for Michael that he will be using his considerable talents on land reform.

“Good luck my friend.”

In the letter, Russell explained that he had his “attention drawn” for a new role as chair of the Scottish Land Commission.

“Weighing on my mind was the fact that this might well be the last opportunity I had to make a significant contribution to both the issue and (although land reform is an urban as well as rural issue and is needed Scotland wide) especially to the communities in the Highlands and Islands with whom I have worked, and where I have lived, for many years,” the letter said.