Scotland's minister for independence has dismissed reports that his wife is in the running for Peter Murrell's former job as SNP chief executive.

Mr Murrell stood down from the top role in March this year during the SNP leadership contest after misleading information was given to journalists about the party's membership numbers.

He was subsequently arrested in the probe into SNP finances before being released without charge pending further investigation. Nicola Sturgeon, who Mr Murrell is married to, as well as the party former treasurer Colin Beattie were also later arrested by the police as part of the same operation and likewise released without charge pending further inquiries. 

Party president Michael Russell took over Mr Murrell's job on an interim basis in March with the permanent job of chief executive advertised with a salary of £95,000 in June.

The advert said the party is looking for a candidate with “a strong commitment” to independence and the “in-depth knowledge of Scottish politics necessary to ensure continued electoral success”.

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Taking to social media Jamie Hepburn rejected a newspaper report that his wife Julie Hepburn was being tipped for the post.

"Julie Hepburn, who is the wife of Scottish Government independence minister Jamie, has been tipped to take over as the party's chief executive," a post by the Express on social media read.

Referring to the report Mr Hepburn wrote: "It wouldn’t have taken the Express long to check whether there was anything to this story. Long answer short, there isn’t. A better tipster required."

Ms Hepburn stood as a candidate in the SNP depute leadership contest in 2018 alongside Keith Brown and Chris McEleny, coming second to Mr Brown. Mr McEleny later defected to Alex Salmond's Alba party where he is general secretary.

The Herald:

Julie Hepburn stood against Keith Brown, left, and Chris McEleny, right, in the SNP depute leadership contest in 2018. 

She is well known and highly respected among senior party members and activists and has worked for former Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Perth MP Pete Wishart.

Announcing her candidacy Ms Hepburn told The National in 2018 that the SNP should be doing the "preparation and training" for a second independence referendum.

She said she wanted to take on the role to co-ordinate policy development.

"We have a lot of very high profile, capable people who can stand in for the first minister in terms of being the public face of the party, going on television and pushing our arguments," she added.

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"What I want to do is push through the internal reforms which are under way."

The SNP earlier today launched their campaign in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by election, expected in October following a recall petition against MP Margaret Ferrier which ousted her. 

Ms Ferrier was elected as the SNP for the area in 2015 and 2019, but sat as an independent MP from September 2020 when it was found she had breached Covid lockdown rules and the SNP withdrew the party whip.

The South Lanarkshire seat is the first parliamentary test for Mr Yousaf as leader of the SNP, but also the first major election in almost 25 years where Mr Murrell will not be at the helm.

Seen as a driving force for the SNP's formidable campaigning machine, Mr Murrell oversaw election wins in Holyrood since 2007 and in Westminster since 2015, taking the party to the greatest electoral success in its history.

Mr Yousaf today described Mr Murrell  as "one individual"as he touted the party's commitment to winning the seat vacated by Ms Ferrier.

While Mr Murrell was a "proven election winner", the First Minister said the party's best assets were its members, who would be "flooding the streets" in the constituency and "knocking every single door multiple times".

Ms Ferrier has said she will not stand in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election after she was ousted by 11,896 voters who signed a recall petition in protest over her rule-breaking.

The former SNP MP had travelled to London and back by train at the height of pandemic in September that year after testing positive for the virus, and was subsequently handed 270 hours of community service after being convicted of breaching Covid regulations.