SNP veteran Michael Russell has resigned from his role as president of the party after three years at the helm.

His departure comes after a difficult year for the party following the resignation of former first minister and leader, Nicola Sturgeon, as well as the ongoing investigation into the party’s finances.

Mr Russell also took up the role of interim chief executive of the party in March 2023 after the resignation of Peter Murrell, who had held the role for more than 20 years.

The former MSP and Scottish Government minister departs party politics in Scotland and has been recommended for appointment as chairman of the Scottish Land Commission.

This appointment will be subject to approval of the Scottish parliament, which will scrutinise the recommendation and take the final decision on the appointment.

But rivals have questioned if Mr Russell is the right person to take on the job.

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said: “It speaks volumes for the state of the feuding, scandal-ridden SNP, that Mike Russell would want to desert a sinking ship in favour of a cushy job with a Scottish government quango.

“But many people will question whether someone so partisan and tribally devoted to Humza Yousaf’s party is the right person to lead the Scottish Land Commission.”

Coronavirus – Tue Jun 9, 2020
Mike Russell has resigned as president of the SNP after three years at the helm and almost 50 years involvement with the party (Fraser Bremner/PA)

Mr Russell was elected party president in November 2020 and has a record spanning almost five decades after joining the SNP in 1974.

Twenty years later, he became the party’s first full time chief executive before he was elected to Holyrood as a list MSP for the South of Scotland in 1999.

He lost his seat in 2003, but returned to serve the same region from 2007 until 2011 when he was elected as an MSP for Argyll and Bute, before retiring at the 2021 Scottish Parliament election.

Mr Russell also served in the Scottish Government in various posts between 2007 and 2021, including environment minister, Education Secretary and latterly as Scotland’s Brexit secretary.

Earlier this year, Mr Russell said the party was facing the biggest crisis in 50 years.

He also said he did not believe independence was achievable “right now”.

First Minister Humza Yousaf thanked Mr Russell for his “outstanding contribution” to the party.

He said: “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.

“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 an 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 to remain anchored to our core values.

“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.”