HUMZA Yousaf is aiming to recruit a taxpayer-funded spindoctor from outside the Scottish Government to boost his troubled administration.

The First Minister, who faces growing problems over policy and an SNP fundraising scandal, has decided not to appoint any of his existing special advisers to the all-important role, the Herald understands. 

Stuart Nicolson, a former Daily Mail reporter who joined the government in 2008, had been Nicola Sturgeon’s Head of Communications, and was a key point of contact with the media.

He is now leaving the government alongside Ms Sturgeon’s former top adviser Liz Lloyd and Net Zero adviser John McFarlane.

A source said that making the next head of comms an external appointment was part of the “new start” that Mr Yousaf had already signalled with a younger set of ministers.

“I don’t think anyone internal will be appointed. Someone from outside will be brought in and made a special adviser in Stuart’s old role.”

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf distances himself from Nicola Sturgeon's SNP leadership

Besides strategic communications for the government, the job involves hosting the often bruising weekly media briefing after FMQs and acting as Mr Yousaf’s official spokesperson.

Because the person would serve at the request of the First Minister, there is no need for a formal appointment process, and someone could simply be “tapped” for the job.

However the process is still expected to take some time, as no one has yet been identified as a candidate, and finding the right person will not be easy.

Although the post comes with a salary of up to £90,000, the occupant will be dropped in at the deep end amid unprecedented turbulence.  

There are divisions among SNP parliamentarians over gender reform, the economy, the deposit return scheme, working with the Scottish Greens, how to secure independence, plus huge backlogs in the NHS to tackle.

There is also a likely byelection in Rutherglen caused by former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier breaking Covid rules and a general election in 2024.

The Herald:

The police probe into SNP fundraising, which saw Nicola Sturgeon's husband arrested on Wednesday, is also deeply destabilising for the party.

As well as a chief Government spindoctor, Mr Yousaf also needs a head of communications at Holyrood following Murray Foote’s resignation.

Mr Foote, a former editor of the Daily Record, quit last month after he was misled by SNP HQ over the party’s declining membership, and then unwittingly misled the media himself.

The post is currently being advertised and applications close on April 14.

READ MORE: Alex Neil - Police probe into SNP a factor in Sturgeon's resignation

The scandal over Mr Foote prompted Ms Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell to resign as SNP chief executive after a mutiny by the party’s ruling body.  

That means the party also has to find a replacement for Mr Murrell who can immediately lead it the imminent election campaigns.

Mr Yousaf has said there will be an “open process” to find the right person.

Among the other special advisers (temporary civil servants with political license) staying on under Mr Yousaf are Ms Sturgeon's former chief of staff Colin McAllister, Jeanette Campbell, Ewan Crawford, Davie Hutchison, Ross Ingebrigtsen, Emily Mackintosh, and former MP Callum McCaig.

Harry Huyton and Gavin Corbett, the SpAds working alongside the Green ministers in the joint government, are also remaining in post.