NICOLA Sturgeon is facing growing pressure from inside the SNP to ensure the forthcoming depute leadership contest is not “a coronation” of Westminster leader Ian Blackford.

Senior MSP Ivan McKee is the latest high profile figure to caution the First Minister as calls mount for the race to be “open and inclusive”.

His comments come as James Dornan, the first politician to announce his intention to enter the race, said the new depute should come from Holyrood as “it is where Scotland’s future lies”.

Writing in The National today, McKee said greater clarity was needed on what the role should entail and warned of it being a “de-facto addendum to the Westminster Leader’s job title”. With the prospect of a second independence referendum and another snap election, McKee suggested a key aspect of the job should be to engage and support the party’s grassroots and wider Yes movement.

“One thing is clear, there is work to be done: to get the party, and the movement, fighting fit for the next electoral challenges,” he wrote.

“Whether that work is the role of the depute leader ... is something that needs to be clarified.”

He added: “If the depute leader is yet again to become a de-facto addendum to the Westminster leader’s job title, then it sets a precedent for future vacancies that will be hard to break.

“It effectively means that the choice of depute leader is left to the SNP MP group, rather than the party membership as a whole. That is perhaps not the route that does the most to strengthen party structures and democracy. Whatever happens a coronation serves no one well.”

McKee’s calls for an inclusive contest and for clarity on the role of depute were also underlined by Dornan, who in a separate article in The National today, rebutted suggestions the new depute should come from the Westminster group.

He said: “Now I recognise that some may say that the depute leader should come from the Westminster group, but while I appreciate the work being done by MPs, Scotland’s future is at Holyrood.

“If we are to become independent and show the rest of the world that we are self-sufficient, our message should always be Scotland’s Parliament and future lies here.”

Other party figures backed Blackford, who has not yet said if he wants the depute leadership post.

One insider believed if the Westminster group leader became Sturgeon’s depute, the duo could emulate the successful “Salmond/Sturgeon” team, with Sturgeon a voice of working class urban Scotland and Blackford that of middle class, rural Scotland and the business community.

“Nicola and Alex worked so well together, it would be good to get a similar type of leadership team again,” he said.

“Alex was able to speak to the middle classes and make an offering to the middle classes and I think we need to be doing that again.

“We are losing seats in rural areas and we need to understand why. I believe we are not offering the middle classes the things we did in 2007 and 2011 – the council tax freeze for instance. The new property tax on buying a house now makes it more expensive than before to buy a three or four bedroomed house than it used to be.”

He added: “A Glasgow candidate is a complete non starter. We have a First Minister and a party that is Glasgow centric and we need to change that. We need to speak to Edinburgh and the rural parts of the country. To my mind Ian Blackford would make the most sense.”

The First Minister has no official role in the election, however she can exert an influence behind the scenes. In 2016 she endorsed Robertson, a move which may have influenced party members.

Possible contenders being discussed in SNP circles include the MPs Philippa Whitford, Joanna Cherry, Tommy Sheppard and Pete Wishart.

Humza Yousaf, the transport minister and Derek Mackay, the finance Secretary, are also being discussed along with the MSPs Ivan McKee.

Yesterday Angus Robertson, who resigned from the role on Saturday, dismissed suggestions the party had an “autocratic” leadership. He said: “There is a very collegiate leadership within the SNP and it involves a much wider circle of people than some political opponents ... and my experience of working with Nicola Sturgeon is not just on a political level but just as a human being and as a friend [she’s] always reachable, always happy to talk and always happy to listen to advice, especially when there’s a different view on something.

Angus MacLeod, SNP National Secretary, said: “The SNP is now a mass membership party with a track record of putting members at the heart of everything we do. Every member gets a vote for the new depute leader, and we want to see a wide and diverse choice of candidates.”

A study by Queen Mary University of London showed SNP members have the highest satisfaction rates of any political party in the UK.