ONE of the SNP’s longest-serving MPs has suggested the party could re-run the leadership election following the arrest of Peter Murrell.

Angus MacNeil told the Sunday Mail that there were questions over the former chief executive’s role in the decision to dramatically reduce the length of the race to replace Nicola Sturgeon. 

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At an emergency meeting the day after Nicola Sturgeon resigned, the party’s ruling NEC agreed to a rapid timetable for the contest, with a new leader in place within 40 days. 

The party’s constitution states that the process should normally run for around 133 days.

Mr MacNeil also raised concerns about the row over the membership figures. 

The party’s head of communications at Holyrood, Murray Foote, quit last month after he unwittingly misled the media over how many members the SNP had. He himself had been misled by SNP HQ.

The Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP told the paper: “Peter Murrell appears to have intervened to significantly shorten the election process after the first minister surprised everyone with her resignation on February 15. 

“We then had the issue of the media being misled on membership numbers, which led to communications director Murray Foote’s and Murrell’s resignation.

“After this, party HQ rejected a reasonable proposal to allow members to change their vote before the ballot closed. Murrell has now been arrested as part of a fraud investigation into SNP finances shortly after the result.

“There are clearly questions to answer here. If it is the case that Peter’s arrest has been delayed to allow the first minister to resign and the vote to take place, then that could have had a material impact on the election result. 

“It seems unlikely that the continuity candidate would have cut it if all of this had been know beforehand.”

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Mr Murrell was arrested by police last Wednesday and held for over 12 hours before being released without charge, pending further investigation. 

Asked about the new First Minister, Mr MacNeil added: “Humza could be a great leader, he could be grand, but it’s not about who won – it’s about the legitimacy of the process and getting the SNP back to being a democratic party that genuinely listens to and includes its members, its branches, its associations, in the running of things. 

“I think there is a very strong ­argument for rerunning the election. It definitely needs to be discussed.”

Under the normal procedure for voting for a new leader, the SNP’s rule book says nominations should open for 77 days, with voting due to start 35 days later, and lasting no more than 21 days.