THE SNP leadership contest has been hit by an immediate row, with senior politicians urging the party to allow more members to vote.

Nicola Sturgeon's then father waded in on social media, saying he totally disagreed with the idea.

Within hours of Ms Sturgeon resigning, SNP general secretary Lorna Finn said February 15 would be the so-called cut-off date for people eligible to vote.

“All members as of today [February 15] and who still hold a valid membership card at the ballot deadline will be eligible to vote in any ballot,” she said.

She also confirmed nominations had already opened and those wanting to stand needed to be nominated by at least 100 members drawn from at least 20 SNP branches.

Ms Finn’s email was swiftly challenged by former minister Ash Regan, the only MSP who has so far indicated an interest in standing.

Ms Regan, who resigned from the Scottish Government last year over gender reforms, said people who had recently quit the party should be allowed to rejoin and vote.

She tweeted: “I call for all those members who have left the party over the last year to be able to rejoin over the next month and be allowed to participate in the leadership election.”

Such a move would allow members who quit over gender reforms to vote for Ms Regan.

The call was backed by another gender reform sceptic, the MP Joanna Cherry KC, who also said people suspended over dubious “transphobia” complaints should be let back in.

She warned the party could face a legal challenge if they were not.

Retweeting Ms Regan’s message, Ms Cherry wrote: “I endorse this call. Many women left the party in exasperation as their rights were thrown under the bus. 

“Others left in despair over the #Independence strategy. We need these people back. There should be a moratorium on all resignations over the last 2 years.

“A number of @theSNP members have been suspended from the party without due process or because of complaints of “transphobia” on a definition which is not #ECHR or #EqualityLaw compliant. 

“They must be reinstated or the leadership result could be challenged.”

However Ms Sturgeon's father Robin responded to Ms Regan's tweet by saying: "Totally disagree with this, members who left the party for whatever reason should not be allowed to jump back in to vote in the leadership election."

A Scottish Conservative spokesperson said: “The race to succeed Nicola Sturgeon hasn’t even begun and already senior SNP figures are fighting like ferrets in a sack.

“It will take more than the resignation of the First Minister to heal the bitter divisions that have formed in the SNP, especially those created by Nicola Sturgeon’s reckless self-ID policy.”

The SNP's ruling National Executive Committee is due to meet online at 630pm tonight to discuss the timing and format of the leadership election.