A MEMBER of the SNP’s ruling body has said she is “losing confidence” in the party’s most senior elected official after a chaotic Holyrood candidate selection.

Women’s officer Rhiannon Spear, who is close to Nicola Sturgeon, said National Secretary Angus MacLeod appeared “incapable” of doing his job. 

It followed a U-turn by Mr MacLeod on Saturday over the party’s candidate selection for the SNP-held seat of Glasgow Cathcart.

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Incumbent MSP James Dornan announced earlier this year he would stand down at the 2021 election, then reversed his decision several weeks ago.

Despite informing the party of his change of heart, the SNP’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) last week agreed an all-women shortlist for candidates in the seat.

It prompted a furious reaction from Mr Dornan, who said he would fight the decision, arguing there was no candidate vacancy to fill, as well as a backlash on social media.

Mr MacLeod then ruled the NEC’s decision was “unconstitutional” and therefore void.

While Mr Dornan welcomed the change, the National reported that Ms Spear, a Glasgow City Councillor and NEC member, wrote a furious email to Mr MacLeod, who is elected by SNP members as the custodian of the party’s rulebook.

She demanded a “personal explanation as to why you have been incapable of doing your job as national secretary”.

She went on: “Myself and my colleagues on the NEC should never be in a position where we have to vote on anything in front of us if it is constitutionally dubious.

“I have been on the receiving end of considerable personal and targeted criticism for this decision as is to be expected.

“As women’s convenor, I would not be doing my job if I did not advocate for all-women shortlists and specifically the BAME women who have already come forward in Glasgow ready to contest Cathcart.

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“I will continue to support and encourage the women who have approached me through this process despite this U-turn.

“However, I do not expect to be put in a position where these decisions will be reneged on advice sought after the decision has been taken.

“I share great sympathy with James on this point given the lack of clarity we have received. It is your job to give the NEC absolute assurance that the votes before us are constitutionally sound, you have had four weeks to seek clarity on this matter.

“I am therefore losing confidence in serving as a member of the NEC under a national secretary who cannot give us these assurances.”

One of Mr MacLeod’s predecessors as National Secretary has also criticised another controversial decision the NEC took last week - forcing MPs to resign their seat if they are selected to stand for Holyrood.

This was widely seen as ‘stitch-up’ by the party hierarchy to block MP Joanna Cherry QC vying with Ms Sturgeon’s ally Angus Robertson for the Edinburgh Central candidacy.

Mr Cherry said she would not put her name forward for Holyrood after the rule change, saying she was not willing to put her staff out of a job.

Duncan Ross, who was SNP National Secretary from 2006 to 2009, said on social media: “This looks spiteful and directed at one person. In my view a terrible idea.”

Dr Phillipa Whitford, the SNP MP for Central Ayrshire, said all SNP MPs were “now trapped at Westminster with no straightforward way to put themselves forward for Scotland’s own Parliament. No one ever mentioned this before any of us stood for Westminster.”

The SNP has been asked for comment about Ms Spear’s comments.