HUMZA Yousaf has ruled out launching a bid for the SNP's deputy leadership and revealed that he is backing Westminster group leader Angus Robertson for the role instead.

The Glasgow MSP had been seen as a potential contender for the job as he is a popular figure within the party and is seen in Holyrood circles as being highly ambitious.

Mr Yousaf, recently appointed transport minister, said he had been "humbled" by the number of party activists who had asked him to stand but wanted to focus his attention on his Glasgow Pollok constituency and role in Government. He also claimed the party needed "experienced hands on the wheel" with a independence referendum potentially around the corner.

He said: "If I thought I was the best candidate for Deputy Leader then I would have considered putting my name forward, I am not. For me the best person for the job is Angus Robertson and I am delighted to give him my full backing for the position of Deputy Leader of the SNP.

"At a time when our party is providing leadership not just in Scotland but across the UK, we need our top team steering the ship. There is no-one better to be at Nicola's side than Angus. As the leader of the Westminster group he has transformed the SNP in to the effective official opposition to the UK Government. His surgical dismantling of Tory policy week in and week out at PMQs has rightly earned him plaudits from pundits, the public and even other political parties - and rightly so."

There are still no MSPs to enter the race, with MPs Mr Robertson and Tommy Sheppard putting their names forward, alongside MEP Alyn Smith and councillor Chris McEleny. The deadline to declare is early next month.

The contest was sparked when current deputy Stewart Hosie announced he would be standing down after it emerged he had cheated on his wife, the health secretary Shona Robison, with a Westminster journalist. A new number two will be selected by members and named at the SNP conference in the autumn.

Mr Yousaf added: "At this moment and time our party needs experienced hands on the wheel. We know, as the First Minister has said, that another independence referendum is highly likely if Scotland's place in Europe cannot be protected as part of the UK.

"Angus has been the campaign director for numerous historic elections our party has won. I want him by Nicola's side, as he has been over a number of years, when the independence referendum comes again. For that reason, and many others, I am delighted to support Angus for deputy."