THE SNP’s Westminster leader has promised an end to the secrecy about how many people are voting in the party’s leadership contest.

Stephen Flynn said SNP HQ would “obviously” issue a number once votes were counted.

Members received emails enabling them to vote yesterday and the ballot ends March 27.

However SNP HQ, run by Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, the party chief executive Peter Murrell, has repeatedly refused to say how many people are voting on her replacement.

The knee-jerk secrecy contributed to former cabinet secretary Alex Neil to demand that there be “no more deceit” in the contest, which he warned might be “rigged”.

Asked on BBC Radio Scotland today how many members the SNP had, Mr Flynn said: “I’m afraid I have got nae idea. I think the last time I heard it was about 100,000.”

Asked about press reports that it could be below 80,000 and why there was no transparency over the number, he said: “It’s never a question I’ve asked HQ, if I’m honest.

“I have never phoned up the chief exec and said, How many members?

“I’m sure that information will be forthcoming when ballots are being counted, because obviously we’ll need to, we'll have to have a number at the end of it, and we’ll see what the percentages are.” 

He also denied the SNP faced an “existential crisis” after so much feuding in the contest, but admitted there was “quite clearly disagreement and discussion within the party”.

He said: “it’s incumbent upon a new leader once they’re in place to bring everyone together.”

Asked if the in-fighting seen in some of the hustings was a good look for the SNP”, the Aberdeen South MP  said: “I think it’s inevitable when you’re in a leadership contest, no matter which party it is, that there’s going to be differences of opinion.

“What I would hope for is that, when we get on the other side of this, once the contest is concluded in a couple of weeks… that we can come together and move forward together.

“I think that’s what members would expect of us and that’s what the public would expect of us as well.”

Mr Flynn, who is backing health Secretary Humza Yousaf in the contest, was also asked about polls showing he was unpopular with the public.

He said: “What we need in politics at the moment is a little bit of hope. I think Humza can undoubtedly offer that hope.

“More importantly, when it comes to the economy, his proposals when it comes to childcare and expanding it to one- and two-year-olds would be a win-win for families, just as it would be for the economy itself."

He said Mr Yousaf also “gets” the just transition to a green economy, and insisted he would be able to unite the party and the country, despite the polls showing public antipathy.

Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy MSP, said: “None of the feuding SNP leadership candidates are up to the job of being First Minister.

“Even one of Humza Yousaf’s top backers is very clearly underwhelmed, which is unsurprising given the uninspiring choice before him.

“The only thing that unites Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan, as they fight like Nats in a sack, is their independence obsession.

"Meanwhile, the real priorities of the people of Scotland are being ignored by all three candidates during this SNP civil war.

“Whoever wins, Scotland loses – and even Stephen Flynn has recognised this.”