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Call for SNP national secretary to resign as row over party candidate selection intensifies

A row over how the SNP selects its election candidates has intensified with calls for the party's national secretary to resign.

Sharp divisions among Nationalists have emerged after the party's National Executive Committee (NEC) ruled that any sitting MP would have to resign their seat before they could stand for election at Holyrood.

The decision was widely viewed as an attempt to halt a bid by Joanna Cherry to become the candidate for Edinburgh Central at next year's Scottish Parliamentary elections -  a seat also being targeted by party veteran Angus Robertson.

Prominent SNP councillor Chris McEleny today blamed the decision on national secretary Angus MacLeod and called on him to quit.

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McEleny - an ally of former leader Alex Salmond - said the first act of any replacement national secretary should be to reverse the decision that MPs can't fight for Holyrood seats without first resigning from Westminster.

And in a further example of how party figures are clashing over the future of the NEC, a leaked email from SNP MP Alyn Smith describes the body as "politically unsound".

The message, sent to MacLeod and the party's business secretary, Kirsten Oswald, said there was "grumbling bemusement" among members at the conduct of the NEC "as a whole."

Smith - a firm supporter of Nicola Sturgeon - wants to see an "Equalities Forum" established to "hold the NEC to account".

The leaked email said: "Over the last few years we have allowed the NEC to expand, and while each change has been discussed and approved with good intentions, I think we need to learn lessons of recent experience. Expanding the NEC to 42 people is an experiement which has failed."

Inverclyde councillor McIleny - who is bidding to become the SNP candidate for Greenock - also criticised the NEC's handling over whether to allow James Dornan to stand again in Glasgow Cathcart at next year's Holyrood vote.

He said: "The recent decisions to block long serving MSP James Dornan from standing in the Holyrood election, and one of the party’s most able Parliamentarians, Joanna Cherry, from contesting the Edinburgh central seat has brought great injury to the party."

He continued: "The national secretary is a thoroughly decent person, and I have no doubt that actions that have been carried out in his name have perhaps not been sanctioned by him. Inaction is in itself though equally unacceptable.

"It is with regret then that in order for the party to put this saga quickly behind us, the national secretary must immediately resign for the good of the party and for the greater good of the independence cause."

When asked about the leaked email, Smith told the Record: "This is an internal party mater and I am disappointed it has been leaked in this unhelpful way.”

An SNP spokesman said the party would not comment on internal matters.

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