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by Staff reporter
01 December 2023
Michael Russell stands down as SNP president

Michael Russell has been recommended for the role of chair of the Scottish Land Commission | Alamy

Michael Russell stands down as SNP president

The SNP is in the process of finding a new president after incumbent Michael Russell resigned from the post to take up the role of chair at the Scottish Land Commission.

Russell, who has been president since 2020, has been recommended for the chairmanship but his appointment will not be confirmed until it has been scrutinised by the parliament.

His resignation takes immediate effect and details about the appointment of a successor are yet to be announced.

According to the party's constitution the role of president is an honorary position "elected in recognition of distinguished service".

A spokesperson said the SNP's ruling National Executive Committee will discuss how the role will be filled "at a future meeting" and that "any announcement will be made in due course".

Party leader and First Minister Humza Yousaf gave his “heartfelt thanks” to Russell and said the party owes him a “great debt of gratitude” for his contribution over the past five decades.

“Michael has been a member of our party since before I was born and, throughout all the highs and lows of that period, he has served the SNP in almost every conceivable way – as an party activist, as chief executive, as a politician and as our party president,” Yousaf said.

“He’s a deeply respected and much-loved figure in our party – and rightly so – and has always been there to provide support and guidance to me personally and to many others whenever it has been needed, helping our party to remain anchored to our core values.

“The party owes Michael a great debt of gratitude and I wish him all the very best as he seeks to begin a new and very important role in Scottish life , in an area of work which he has long supported."

Scottish Conservative Party chair Craig Hoy was scathing about Russell's potential appointment to the Scottish Land Commission, saying people would question whether someone so steeped in the party of government should lead a non-departmental public body that was created by the SNP administration in 2016.

“It speaks volumes for the state of the feuding, scandal-ridden SNP, that Mike Russell would want to desert a sinking ship in favour of a cushy job with a Scottish government quango," he said.

“But many people will question whether someone so partisan and tribally devoted to Humza Yousaf’s party is the right person to lead the Scottish Land Commission.”

Russell joined the SNP in 1974 and first stood for election in Clydesdale at the 1987 election. He became the SNP’s first full-time chief executive in 1994, remaining in position until he was elected as a South of Scotland list MSP in 1999.

He lost his seat in 2003 but returned to serve the same region from 2007 to 2011 before he was elected as the MSP for the Argyll and Bute constituency, a position he held until retiring from Holyrood in 2021.

Earlier this year he briefly served as interim chief executive of the SNP after incumbent Peter Murrell resigned amid a row about membership figures during the contest to replace Nicola Sturgeon – Murrell's wife – as leader.

He held that role for less than a month before being replaced by SNP chief operating officer Sue Ruddick.

She filled the position from April to August, when former SNP communications head Murray Foote took it on on a permanent basis.

Foote, a former editor of the Daily Record, had earlier resigned from the press office after telling journalists that an accurate newspaper report about the party losing 30,000 members was "drivel".

Foote later said he had issued the agreed lines in "good faith as a courtesy to colleagues at party HQ".

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