THE SNP will begin its political life in the new Scottish Parliament as a turbulent grouping which party leader Alex Salmond will find difficult to keep under control.

Following an election process overseen by the Electoral Reform Society, the party yesterday announced the composition of seven of its eight regional lists for May's Scottish General Election.

Although Mr Salmond will be relieved that his trusted lieutenant, party chief executive Michael Russell, has achieved a high enough listing to be virtually certain to make it to Holyrood, the same can also be said of a number of opponents within the party.

Although they reject the title fundamentalists, there is a grouping of hard-line nationalists who reject the more gradualist approach to achieving the common goal of independence currently espoused by the party hierarchy.

Headed by former MP Margo MacDonald, and numbering as many as a dozen, they will make the SNP group at Holyrood much less malleable than Mr Salmond might have wished, or than Donald Dewar will have to contend with in his own ranks.

That reality was being turned to advantage by Mr Salmond last night, as he stressed the difference between his party's open and democratic process and Labour's system based on a central committee.

Making a virtue of necessity, Mr Salmond said: ''Our team will be the strongest in the field, and its strength is increased by the fact that it has been elected by our members, not selected by our leaders.

''New Labour has stuffed its lists with its cronies, with the order being determined by a six-man cabal, a third of which was imposed by London.

''The SNP involved its entire membership throughout Scotland and it is our members who have decided the people that will contend for Scotland's first parliament in 300 years.''

Mr Salmond rejected the notion that some leading figures had been snubbed. Perth MP Roseanna Cunningham, for example, came only fourth on her regional list, but he said this was a clear reflection of most activists deciding that she would make it to Holyrood by winning her constituency seat. ''I am certain that Roseanna will emerge triumphant,'' he said.

Of Labour's difficulties in selecting lists, he said: ''I don't think the people in the Labour Party are going to accept the process of one-man, one-vote when that man is Tony Blair.''

Mr Alex Rowley, general secretary of the Scottish Labour Party, described the SNP's lists of candidates as ''further evidence that Alex Salmond has lost control of his party''. He added: ''The most stunning thing about these lists is that so many of the people they present as their rising stars and senior spokespeople have absolutely no chance of being elected.''

The SNP's political cost will come in having a series of internal party critics forming a significant bloc within Mr Salmond's Parliamentary group.

He will have his trusted aide Michael Russell as a fellow MSP - at number two on the South of Scotland list behind sitting MP Alasdair Morgan, Mr Russell is now a shoo-in, in spite of fears last week that he would struggle.

But chief among those party dissidents, Margo MacDonald, one time MP and wife of former MP Jim Sillars, rejected the notion of a party split.

''I am absolutely delighted that on all the lists there are some sensible nationalists near the top, people who understand that we won't creep in by the back door to this Parliament,'' she said.

But she signalled potential trouble ahead, saying: ''Are you suggesting that some of us might not take the leadership line on some occasions? I certainly hope so. If you start having a real debate, who knows, New Labour may follow us.''

q According to an analysis of the most recent Herald/System Three poll by Malcolm Dickson of Strathclyde University, the SNP could expect to gain additional member seats along the following lines: Central Scotland - 5 seats; Glasgow - 5; Lothian - 4; Mid-Scotland and Fife - 3; North East Scotland - 4; South of Scotland - 4; West of Scotland - 4; Highland and Islands - 1.

The chosen few: the Nationalists' list of candidates


1 Margo MacDonald; 2 Kenny MacAskill; 3 Fiona Hyslop; 4 Anne Dana; 5 Paul Scott; 6 Stewart Gibb; 7 Ian McKee; 8 Angus Robertson; 9 Graham Sutherland; 10 Angela Constance; 11 Greg McCarra; 12 John Hargreaves.

South of Scotland

1 Alasdair Morgan; 2 Michael Russell; 3 Adam Ingram; 4 Christine Creech; 5 Stephen Norris; 6 Kate Higgins; 7 Roger Mullin; 8 Calum Miller; 9 Stuart Crawford; 10 Roger Knox; 11 Beverly Gauld; 12 David Berry.

North East

1 Alex Salmond; 2 Andrew Welsh; 3 Brian Adam; 4 Richard Lochhead; 5 Shona Robison; 6 Irene McGugan; 7 Sandy Stronach; 8 Maureen Watt; 9 Dorothy Jessiman; 10 Ian Angus; 11 Stuart Fergusson; 12 Calum Cashley.


1 Nicola Sturgeon; 2 Dorothy Grace Elder; 3 Kenneth Gibson; 4 Sandra White; 5 Maire Whitehead; 6 John Brady; 7 Bill Wilson; 8 Kaukab Stewart; 9 Bashir Ahmad; 10 Tom Chalmers; 11 Gavin Roberts; 12 Jim Byrne.


1 Alex Neil; 2 Andrew Wilson; 3 Michael Matheson; 4 Gil Paterson; 5 Linda Fabiani; 6 Keith Brown; 7 Karen Neary; 8 Pete Kearney; 9 Kathleen McAlorum; 10 Jim McGuigan; 11 Adam Ardrey; 12 Kim Nicoll


1 Colin Campbell; 2 Kay Ullrich; 3 Lloyd Quinan; 4 Fiona McLeod; 5 Jim Yuill; 6 Ian Hamilton; 7 Rachel Findlay; 8 Bill Martin; 9 Malcolm Kerr; 10 Ian Mackay.

Mid Scotland & Fife

1 John Swinney; 2 George Reid; 3 Tricia Marwick; 4 Roseanna Cunningham; 5 Bruce Crawford; 6 Annabelle Ewing; 7 Colin Welsh; 8 Catriona Black; 9 Stewart Hosie; 10 David McCarthy; 11 Alan Grant; 12 Fergus Wood.

Due to bad weather, the hustings meeting for the Highlands & Islands region had to be cancelled and a postal ballot will now be held.