HUMZA Yousaf has paid tribute to Michael Russell, who has announced his resignation as SNP president.

The SNP leader said he wanted to offer his “heartfelt thanks” to Russell for “his outstanding contribution to the party over almost five decades”.

“On behalf of the SNP, I’d like to give my heartfelt thanks to Michael for his outstanding contribution to the party over almost five decades – a true stalwart of the SNP and the wider independence movement,” he said.

Russell (below) was first elected to the post in November 2020 and also acted as the party’s chief executive for a short period earlier this year.

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..

He has now been recommended for appointment to be chair of the Scottish Land Commission subject to the approval of the Scottish Parliament.

Yousaf added: “Michael has been a member of our party since before I was born and, throughout all the highs and lows of that period, he has served the SNP in almost every conceivable way – as a party activist, as chief executive, as a politician and as our party president.

“He’s a deeply respected and much-loved figure in our party – and rightly so – and has always been there to provide support and guidance to me personally and to many others whenever it has been needed, helping our party remain anchored to our core values.

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“The party owes Michael a great debt of gratitude and I wish him all the very best as he seeks to begin a new and very important role in Scottish life, in an area of work which he has long supported.”

The former minister’s service to the party spans almost five decades having joined the SNP in 1974 and first standing for election in Clydesdale at the 1987 election.

He became the first full time chief executive of the party in December 1994, holding that post until he was elected as an MSP in May 1999.

He lost his seat in 2003 but returned to serve the same region from 2007 to 2011 before he was elected as the MSP for Argyll and Bute constituency – a position he held until retiring in 2021.

During this time, he also served in the Scottish Government, being appointed as an environment minister in 2007 and subsequently holding the post of culture minister and cabinet secretary for education and lifelong learning.