THE SNP has lost nearly 32,000 members in less than 14 months, with the number of activists on February 15 dropping to just 72,186. 

The last publicly available figure showed that at the end of 2021 the party had 103,884 signed-up members. 

That means more than 2,300 people are quitting every month.

At their peak in 2019, they had 125,691 members. 

The release of the figures came after pressure was put on the party by all three of the hopefuls vying to replace Nicola Sturgeon. 

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The SNP said the number fluctuated month by month depending on a range of circumstances. They said last year's drop could be because of the impact of the cost-of-living crisis.

An SNP spokesperson said: "After many years of delivering for people across Scotland and working towards a better future as an independent country, the SNP remains the biggest - and indeed the only mass membership - party in Scotland.

"We remain grateful to our large and committed membership for all their support which has done so much to fuel our electoral success." 

READ MORE: SNP president fears leadership secrecy row will 'aid our enemies'

However, Michelle Thomson, the campaign manager for Kate Forbes, said the "alarming drop in members shows that the party needs a change in direction." 

The MSP said: “Kate Forbes is the candidate offering a new start for Scotland – continuity won’t cut it. We need candour on the challenges facing the party and government, but we also need competence to fix them.

“Kate will build on the SNP’s track record, whilst also recognising that it’s time for change." 

In a statement, Ash Regan's campaign said the fall was down to the "Gender Recognition Reform fiasco."

"This was due to the previous administration’s resistance to listening to reason on the protection of women and girls.

"Such a significant drop in membership numbers must have been what quickened the out-going First Minister’s resignation."

Humza Yousaf welcomed the "right decision" to release the figures.

"I trust this decision will also put to bed claims and hearsay that seek to undermine our party's integrity and benefits only our opposition.

"As a party, we now need a progressive leader who can command support - ensuring our membership are engaged in the future of the party as we look to unite, and strengthen, support for the SNP and the wider independence movement."

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Initially, the party refused to release the figure, saying it would only be publicly shared at the "conclusion" of the contest.

However, following the calls from the candidates, the SNP's ruling National Executive Committee agreed to release the data. 

It comes after Ms Forbes and Ms Regan raised concerns over the integrity of the contest. Both campaigns have called for an independent auditor to oversee the ballot. 

Speaking to press following Thursday's First Minister's Questions, Ms Sturgeon denied her party was in crisis, 

“My party is having a democratic leadership election – growing pains for any organisation can be painful, but they are important.

“I think it’s incumbent for the three candidates standing to succeed me that they remember the task is to retain the trust of the Scottish people that we have won consistently over, not just the eight years of my leadership, but consistently since 2007.”

READ MORE: SNP leadership contest in chaos as Forbes question integrity of vote

Asked if there should be an independent auditor appointed, the First Minister Mi-Voice, the firm appointed by the SNP for the ballot, had been used by the party in a number of elections before. 

The First Minister said she was "not absolutely clear what the specific allegations about the process are."

She added: “This is a tried and tested process that the party has trusted for years.

“As far as I can tell, there are no specific concerns being raised, it’s a general concern, and I don’t think that general concern is justified.

“I have confidence, I have 100% confidence, in the integrity of that system.”

Also speaking to journalists after FMQs, Ms Regan was asked why she thought an auditor should be involved. 

“Just for the sake of increased transparency, my view is it should be a separate company that the SNP don’t have an ongoing relationship with, and we’ve also called for an independent observer, just to oversee the process.”

Asked if she was acting in a "Trumpian" way, as some members of the SNP has suggested, Ms Regan said: “No, I don’t think so.”

Mr Yousaf dismissed the concerns of his two rivals as “baseless smears”.

He said on Twitter: “I have confidence in the process that uses an external third party company, a process we have used for many years.

“I am up for challenge & reform of the party, but let’s not indulge in baseless smears.”

Responding to the falling numbers, Scottish Conservative Chairman Craig Hoy said: “We already knew that voters are deserting the SNP, but now their own party members are walking out too.

“The SNP had to be dragged kicking and screaming into even releasing these numbers in the first place, after incredibly two of the leadership candidates openly questioned their internal election process during voting.

“The SNP Government are out-of-touch with the real priorities of Scotland and it seems tens of thousands of now former members have also come to that conclusion and decided enough is enough.

“The SNP are wholly distracted by their ever-growing civil war while Scots struggle with the cost-of-living crisis, ferries for islanders are delayed even further and our NHS is buckling under overwhelming pressure."

Lib Dem Scottish Affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine said the numbers were not surprising. 

“With schools wracked by strikes and record waits in A&E departments, it's no wonder that people are turning against the party responsible.

"The whole SNP leadership contest has been a mess. Rather than debate the issues that really matter, all three candidates have got themselves caught up in conspiracy theories and internal warfare."