THE bitter infighting behind the SNP’s most controversial Holyrood contest has erupted into the open again, with a senior MP claiming she was hobbled by “outside interference”.

Joanna Cherry QC also accused one of Nicola Sturgeon’s closest allies of taking people “for fools” after he shrugged off what happened as run-of-the-mill politics.

Ms Cherry, her party’s justice and home affairs spokesperson at Westminster, said there had been an “unprecedented” rule change to stop her becoming an MSP next year.

There was “a secret vote to hobble my candidacy,” she said.

Ms Cherry withdrew from the candidate selection contest for Edinburgh Central in July after the SNP’s ruling body made it far harder for MPs to stand for Holyrood.

The move was widely seen as the party hierarchy rigging the contest in favour of Ms Cherry’s main rival for the candidacy, the former SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson, who is close to Ms Sturgeon.

Ms Cherry, the MP for Edinburgh South West, made the new claims in a series off tweets this morning prompted by an interview given by Andrew Wilson in the Herald on Sunday.

Mr Wilson, the author of the SNP’s pre-Covid economic plan for independence and an old friend of Ms Sturgeon and Mr Robertson, said the selection row had been “overstated”.

READ MORE: Joanna Cherry launches attack on SNP's ruling body for conducting ‘vendettas’

He said: “All organisations will have personality clashes and ambition clashes. In Scotland, that can be vastly overstated. Angus is one of my closest friends; Joanna Cherry is my MP. 

“I respect them both. Two politicians fight over a seat and one loses – that story’s as old as politics.”

In response, Ms Cherry tweeted a link to the article, saying there was a lot which "with which to disagree", adding of Mr Wilson: “If seeking to be styled the ‘brains’ of the Yes movement its best not to take the rest of us for fools. 

“I did not get into a fight with Angus Robertson over a seat & lose.

“I sought to enter the selection competition to be the SNP candidate to contest the Edinburgh Central seat currently held by the Tories. The constituency is where I’ve lived for last twenty years & been a branch member for 12 years

“The selection rules were subject to an unprecedented change in a secret vote to hobble my candidacy. Mr Robertson is now in what it is to be hoped will be a fair selection with others including Marco Biagi the former MSP & favourite of many local members

“Facts matter. Ultimately the candidate will be chosen by local members & he or she will then fight for the seat. We have our online hustings this week & it is to be hoped that outside interference will now stop so that local democracy can take its course.”

The SNP selection in Edinburgh Central has become synonymous with claims of dirty tricks.

READ MORE: Row over 'dark money' Holyrood boost for Sturgeon ally Angus Robertson

The seat was won by then Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson in 2016 with a majority of just 610, and her impending departure to the Lords next May has made the seat a prime SNP target.

Mr Robertson, who lost his Moray seat at Westminster to current Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross in 2017, applied for the candidacy, as did Ms Cherry.

With Mr Robertson close to Ms Sturgeon, and Ms Cherry close to Alex Salmond, the contest became a proxy battle between the First Minister and her estranged predecessor.

In July, the SNP’s ruling national executive made a last-minute change to the party’s rules forcing any MP wanting to be an MSP to give up their Westminster seat if selected, putting their staff out of work with no guarantee of re-employment at Holyrood.

This obstacle to MPs also being MSPs, known as having a ‘dual mandate’, was despite Mr Salmond being both an MP and MSP for seven of his 11 years at Holyrood while SNP leader.

Ms Cherry pulled out of the race complaining it was “particularly unreasonable” to put her staff out of work in the middle of a economic crash caused by the pandemic.

READ MORE: MPs demand rule change after Cherry quits Holyrood race

Mr Robertson's main rival now is former minister Marco Biagi, who was the Edinburgh Central MSP from 2011 to 2016.

The Scottish Greens recently confirmed they would contest the seat, potentially splitting the pro-independence vote.

Green MSP Alison Johnstone said she would stand again in Edinburgh Central after getting 4,644 votes in the seat in 2016, some 4,000 more than Ms Davidson’s margin of victory. 

The SNP has been asked for comment.