FORMER SNP president Michael Russell has been appointed chairman of the Scottish Land Commission.

The ex-minister stepped away from Holyrood at the 2021 election but continued as party president until earlier this month.

His appointment was confirmed, alongside that of new land commissioners Craig MacKenzie and Deborah Roberts, on Thursday after a Scottish Government amendment was backed by 64 votes to 54.

Russell was recommended for the role by an independent panel, which was then subject to parliamentary approval.

The role will see him advise Scottish ministers on the ongoing programme of land reform, and provide leadership for change in culture and practice.

The National: Mairi Gougeon

Land Reform Secretary Mairi Gougeon (above) said the code of practice for the appointment ensured the “most able candidates” were recommended.

READ MORE: Michael Russell: The time has come to turbocharge Scottish land reform

She said: “We have a process for these appointments. This is robust, fair, transparent and accountable.

“I therefore welcome its recommendation in its report to Parliament that Michael Russell be approved as the next chair of the Scottish Land Commission.”

But Scottish Conservative Douglas Lumsden told the chamber: “Make no mistake, this is a political appointment for an increasingly desperate devolved Government.”

He said the appointment is a “job for the boys” and that it “reeked of nepotism”.

He added: “This is a bad judgment appointment that will not build bridges, but will sow division and be bad for our rural sector.”