HUMZA Yousaf is to speak to Nicola Sturgeon's husband Peter Murrell about his future as chief executive of the SNP if he wins the contest to become party leader and First Minister.

The health secretary said today he regarded Mr Murrell as "an election winner" for "many many years".

But he added: "One of the first things I will do if I was elected leader of the SNP is speak to Peter and see what his plans are for the future."

Mr Yousaf also revealed that if he won the contest and became First Minister Constitution Secretary Angus Roberston - the latest member of the Cabinet to back his leadership bid - would have a role in government.

READ MORE: Yousaf criticises Cherry over sharing of 'abhorrent' Twitter post

"Angus is hugely talented. If I am First Minister of Scotland you can bet your bottom dollar that he will have a role to play in Scotland's government," he told reporters during a campaign event at Glasgow University.

"He would be most people's top pick. I would be surprised, whoever the next First Minister is, that they didn't take Angus in their Cabinet."

However, he went on to say there was still several weeks of the internal election to go and would not comment on whether Mr Roberston would be his choice of Deputy First Minister, following John Swinney's announcement that he is to step down from the post when Ms Sturgeon's successor as SNP leader and First Minister is elected.

Mr Murrell has faced calls to stand down from the role since Ms Sturgeon became SNP leader in 2014 with critics saying too much influence was being exerted by the couple on the party.

READ MORE: Tories urge SNP leadership hopefuls to stop 'attacks' on press

He also faced questions earlier this year when it emerged he had made a personal loan of £107,000 to the SNP.

Last month the party appointed an independent firm to oversee its leadership election following criticism that Mr Murrell was playing too central a role in the contest amid concerns Ms Sturgeon favoured Mr Yousaf to succeed her over his rivals.

SNP veteran Alex Neil, a former health secretary, said then that there was “a low level of confidence” in the party headquarters.

He added: “It is not really acceptable that the SNP chief executive should be playing such a central role. I am not accusing anyone of anything but it is clear the party hierarchy have a preferred candidate.”

Mr Yousaf, the health secretary, has emerged as the candidate with the party establishment’s blessing, while his main rival, Kate Forbes, the finance secretary, has positioned herself as the candidate for change.

READ MORE: Yousaf criticised for 'woeful' A&E waits after fifth rise in a row

Ash Regan, the former community safety minister and third contender, is seen as a outlier in the contest.

Ms Regan has previously said having a party leader who is married to the chief executive was inappropriate. 

SNP officials have insisted Mr Murrell has no role or oversight of the leadership ballot which opens on Monday and closes on March 27. 

The result of the election will be the only voting information provided and will be communicated directly to the SNP’s national secretary at the close of the poll, the party said.

Ms Forbes has previously refused to be drawn on whether Mr Murrell should remain chief executive.

She said last month: “I think we need fresh faces in the SNP, which is why I’m campaigning for election but ultimately that’s a question for Peter Murrell.”

Mr Yousaf has previously said during the contest that internal party reform was needed but did not believe the chief executive should stand aside.

SNP headquarters has been forced to repeatedly reject claims that it has been used to help Mr Yousaf after it banned Emma Harper, an MSP, from sending party emails after she used the system to encourage members to vote for Mr Yousaf.

On Monday, Mr Yousaf rejected any suggestion of improper conduct by the party hierarchy.

His comments were made after Joanna Cherry, one of the party’s most prominent MPs, who is backing Ms Regan, said the SNP’s “party machine” was behind Mr Yousaf, while Jackie Baillie, the deputy leader of Scottish Labour, urged the SNP to put “openness and integrity” at the heart of the process.

“I think there are people who are throwing around accusations without any basis,” Mr Yousaf said on Monday.

“It probably speaks to how concerned they are about their own campaigns. I think if anybody has any proof of any involvement of HQ or party machinery being involved in anybody’s campaign, then they should come forward with that.”