The former president of the SNP has been approved as the chair of the Scottish Land Commission following a Holyrood vote.

Michael Russell's appointment to lead the powerful quango has proved controversial. 

The Scottish Conservatives said there was a "stench of corruption" around the whole process. 

MSPs backed their old colleague's appointment to the high paying post by 64 votes to 54.

READ MORE: Russell resigns as SNP president to take up new public role

The role will see him advise Scottish ministers on land reform and use.

SNP minister Mairi Gougeon said the code of practice for the appointment ensured the “most able candidates” were recommended.

She said: “We have a process for these appointments. This is robust, fair, transparent and accountable.

“I therefore welcome its recommendation in its report to Parliament that Michael Russell be approved as the next chair of the Scottish Land Commission.”

But Scottish Tory MSP Douglas Lumsden told the chamber: “Make no mistake, this is a political appointment for an increasingly desperate devolved Government.”

He said the appointment is a “job for the boys” and that it “reeked of nepotism”.

He added: “This is a bad judgment appointment that will not build bridges, but will sow division and be bad for our rural sector.”

READ MORE: SNP President admits 'things have gone spectacularly wrong'

Taking to X, the site formerly known as Twitter, Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: "Of all the potential candidates to be Chair of @ScottishLandCom, are we seriously expected to believe that it’s just a coincidence that SNP President Michael Russell was deemed best qualified?

"The stench of corruption around this failing SNP Govt grows ever stronger."

Mr Russell stood down as the SNP president three weeks ago, despite only being re-elected to the post in October.

Last week, the appointment was queried by former Scottish Greens MSP Andy Wightman, who said it was "very odd" for a non-departmental public body to be led by someone so party political.

Mr Russell joined the SNP in 1974. He became the party’s first full-time chief executive in 1994, remaining in position until he was elected as a South of Scotland list MSP in 1999.

He lost his seat in 2003 but returned to serve the same region from 2007 to 2011 before he was elected as the MSP for the Argyll and Bute constituency.

During his time he served in both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon's governments.

He retired from Holyrood in 2021.

Earlier this year he briefly served as interim chief executive of the SNP after incumbent Peter Murrell resigned amid a scandal of the party's membership figures.

The Holyrood vote also saw Professor Deborah Roberts and Craig Mackenzie appointed to the board of the Scottish Land Commission.