THE SNP has refused to say if it has finished its disciplinary investigation into disgraced former Finance Secretary Derek Mackay despite moving to replace him at Holyrood.

More than six months after suspending him over a sleaze scandal, the party has opened the contest to find a new candidate in his seat of Renfrewshire North and West.

The internal selection fight, which is using an all-women shortlist, has already seen two Renfrewshire councillors apply to stand.

Natalie Don, who worked for Mr Mackay, is vying for the candidacy with Miche Campbell, who works for Paisley MP Gavin Newlands.

Cllr Campbell, 36, a mental health nurse, would be the first female BAME MSP elected to Holyrood if she was selected and held the seat for the Nationalists.

Mr Mackay had a majority of 7,373 over the Tories at the 2016 election.

However, despite the selection process getting underway, SNP HQ has refused to say if it has finished its probe into Mr Mackay or even if he is still in the party.

An SNP spokesperson told the Herald: “I'll update you when I've an update to share.”

Mr Mackay resigned on the eve of the Scottish budget on February 6 after the Scottish Sun revealed he had been pestering a 16-year-old schoolboy on social media.

The paper reported the 42-year-old had contacted the boy out of the blue without knowing his age the previous August, then sent him 270 messages over six months.

Mr Mackay, who came out as gay in 2013, had been tipped as a future First Minister until the scandal abruptly ended his political career.

Nicola Sturgeon said at the time that his actions meant it was “inconceivable” that he could remain a minister, and said the party had suspended him from both the SNP and the its parliamentary group “pending further consideration and investigation”.

Despite the abundance of evidence against him, the SNP has now taken longer over the case than it did over former minister Mark McDonald.

Mr McDonald quit as a childcare minister on 4 November 2017 over sleazy messages to a party colleague, and the SNP had published its report on him in early March 2018.

Mr Mackay has not been seen at Holyrood since his resignation more than half a year ago.

However, by continuing as a Independent MSP, he has received more than £32,000 in salary.

He was also paid an automatic severance payment of £11,945 for loss of ministerial office.

He was seen in public for the first time in May, speaking to neighbours in Bishopton, Renfrewshire, before returning to his home with his partner, Fraser Bell.