THE SNP’s leadership race has descended further into acrimony and chaos with a Regan campaign source accusing party HQ of “bussing” supporters of Humza Yousaf to hustings because they are “scared” he might lose.

They also expressed concerns over the integrity of the ballot and claimed dead people could end up voting in the contest. 

The SNP said there was no evidence to back up the incendiary claim and insisted the process was “free, fair and well-run.” 

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Both Ash Regan and Kate Forbes have commented on the “serial hustings attendees” with familiar faces attending more than one of the party’s events. 

Speaking to journalists on Thursday night, the Finance Secretary said she was sure that there was “a couple there who were in Inverness, Cumbernauld and Johnstone.”

“And having done that trek myself I wouldn't wish it on anyone,” she added.

Asked why she thought that was, Ms Forbes replied: “Either they are thoroughly enjoying the hustings because of the entertainment and the nature of the debate, or they are keen to get their various questions answered.”

Ms Regan also told reporters that there were "a lot of serial attendees at the hustings,” she said. “It is very important that the wider membership should have full trust in the transparency of this process.”

A Regan campaign source later suggested party bosses had not expected the race to be so close, with polls now putting Mr Yousaf and Kate Forbes neck and neck with SNP supporters. 

“They are bussing people in to support Humza so it's a slightly more difficult crowd for everyone else as a result of that,” they said.

“I don’t think they started off as scared. I think they thought this would be a coronation.

"They obviously saw Kate as being the main challenger, so she has taken all the heat and it's been pretty nasty. And then he's denying it’s anything to do with him but it's from his campaign and we can all see it.

“So I think they're trying to shore up as much support for him as possible. They've broken the rules on multiple occasions - nothing's been done about that - so they're trying to take every advantage they can, I think inappropriately.”

The source said they were also worried about “ghost memberships.” 

They claimed they were was “not enough due diligence” being done by the party to ensure the system isn’t being abused by lapsed members or votes in the names of dead people.

Mr Yousaf said he too had seen the same faces at a few hustings. “I have to say it is pretty dedicated because I suspect they hear the same answers from us time and time again.” 

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Asked if he thought there was an organised effort to get the same faces to hustings, he replied: “There have been lots of conspiracy theories so far in this campaign, but that’s a new one on me.”

He also said members should trust the process. "We've used it in many elections internally. I think if people want to get the excuses in early, they can do that. Let's not go down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories, I don't think that's going to help anybody in this campaign.

"Let's keep it positive, we're all part of the SNP, let's not trash the SNP's record in terms of internal elections. We've done well in those elections and use that system for many years."

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Ms Forbes also distanced herself from the claims. “I know that people have been unhappy that hustings have sold out quite quickly. But to be fair, you could watch all the live streams if you wanted from the comfort of your bedroom.”

She said she was still confident in the integrity of the process.

An SNP spokesperson said: "Whoever becomes the next SNP leader will do so as a result of a free, fair and well-run election process in keeping with best practice for such ballots.”

They added: “All the necessary safeguards are in place to protect the integrity of the ballot.”