SNP President Michael Russell has admitted that the party is in a ”tremendous mess.”

The former minister was appointed interim Chief Executive on Saturday, following the sudden resignation of Peter Murrell in a row over lies about plummeting party's membership.


Speaking to the BBC's Sunday Show, Mr Russell said the implosion of the party in the wake of Ms Sturgeon's resignation and the resulting succession contest had "not been an edifying process."

"There hasn't been a contested leadership in the SNP for 19 years. And it shows. We've been out of practice in doing this and what has happened has not been good for the party and it's not been good for Scotland," he said.

"I think the party is basically a good party, a party that is focused on the good of Scotland. But things have gone wrong and spectacularly wrong in recent weeks. And we need to sort that out and be open about that," he added.

The former minister said that despite being the party president he did not know that 30,000 people had quit in a few months, or why so many people had left the party.

"We were losing members and we were losing members that we should have known about, absolutely," he said.

"We were clearly not told about that. That is something I want to know why that took place, but I don't want to know it this week.

"What I want to know this week is we have got a process we can complete and can get a new leader of the party."

READ MORE: Peter Murrell resigns as SNP chief executive with immediate effect

Asked why the party had attempted to mislead the public, he said: "I have no idea why that took place. I have no idea at all. I have the greatest respect for Murray Foote. I worked very closely with him. I've known Peter for a long time. I'm not going to speculate about what happened then. But we do need an answer to that."

Mr Russell said he had been speaking with the candidates, and that both Kate Forbes and Humza Yousaf have “confirmed their belief in the integrity of the process”.

He added: “I am in dialogue with Ash Regan I hope to get to the same position. She has questions, I’m very happy to answer those questions.”

Asked about Ms Regan and her threat of legal action to pause the contest, Mr Russell said he was unclear on what grounds the former community safety minister could obtain an interdict.

“I don’t believe there is a case for a variety of reasons and I think the fact that the other two candidates have openly declared their belief in the integrity of the process is very positive.

“I don’t want to do anything other than have a dialogue with each of the candidates and to try and persuade them that this is the right thing to do and therefore I don’t want to claim anything about my conversations with Ash.

“But I do want to be able I hope to persuade her that this is a process that is full of integrity.”

READ MORE: SNP has 'lost its ability to listen and deliver' says Forbes

Mr Russell said the party should be "humbled" by the leadership contest and that it should "learn from the experience". 

Scottish Labour's deputy leader Jackie Baillie said Mr Russell should "grasp the thistle by facing up to the chaos in his party."

“If this is how the SNP run their own party, just imagine the chaos in government – Scotland deserves better," she added.