THE SNP’s top official has been accused of abusing his power and violating the party’s constitution in a bitter row that has generated questions about his fitness for office.

National Secretary Angus MacLeod has been criticised for his intervention in the troubled Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill branch this week.

Mr MacLeod, who is supposed to be the guardian of the SNP constitution, stopped members electing office bearers at their annual general meeting, as is usual, and imposed an online ballot instead.

He said he wanted a fair election in a branch that has previously been suspended over toxic infighting.

But after complaints that members could not question candidates and those offline were being denied a vote, the branch’s convenor, Joe Birt, cancelled last night’s AGM.

The row is now being cited in efforts to oust Mr MacLeod at next month’s SNP conference.

East Lothian activist Morgwn Davies, who is standing against Mr MacLeod for the National Secretary’s job, said the intervention had been “unconstitutional”.

The SNP’s constitution says office bearers are elected at an AGM.

SNP HQ has repeatedly refused to say how the imposed online ballot - understood to be the only used in any SNP branch in the country - is allowed under its own rules.

Writing on Facebook about the Herald’s coverage of the dispute, Mr Davies said: “Any solution to a problem must be in accordance with the party’s constitution.

“That a National Secretary is able to circumvent the Constitution of the party should not be allowed.

“That he is able to do so without any checks and balances on his decision makes it worse.

“There is no appeal within the party against the National Secretary decisions. If elected as National Secretary I would uphold the party’s constitution and never find solutions to perceived problems that were unconstitutional.

“I would limit the power of the post of National Secretary and seek to put in place proper checks and balances.”

The SNP said party business convener Kirsten Oswald had ordered Mr MacLeod “to undertake an OMOV ballot of members to allow everyone a say in who the new office bearers should be.

“Mr Davies acknowledged that he knew nothing of the local situation, and so was mistaken in his belief that the action was unconstitutional, when it was clearly taken on behalf of the NEC [the SNP’s ruling National Executive Committee].”