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by Margaret Taylor
16 March 2023
SNP leadership: Ash Regan demands Peter Murrell release member stats to her and rival Kate Forbes

Ash Regan (right) is contesting the SNP leadership along with Kate Forbes (left) and Humza Yousaf

SNP leadership: Ash Regan demands Peter Murrell release member stats to her and rival Kate Forbes

SNP leadership hopeful Ash Regan has written to Peter Murrell asking that he release key information on the party’s membership to her and her rival Kate Forbes.

Regan has been critical of Murrell’s role as both the party’s chief executive and the husband of outgoing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, saying at the launch of her campaign that there would be a “clear conflict of interest” if he was involved in appointing Sturgeon’s successor.

Though it is understood that SNP national secretary Lorna Finn rather than Murrell is running the process, Regan said she was writing to Murrell in his capacity as chief executive.

In her letter, which she said was being written “on behalf of all the campaign teams of Ash Regan and Kate Forbes", Regan told Murrell it is his responsibility to “ensure that the leadership election process is transparent, fair, and equitable”.

The former community safety minister is running alongside business secretary Forbes and health secretary Humza Yousaf, with the winner to be decided by party members in a vote that opened on Monday.

However, it is unclear how many members the party currently has, with a report in the Mail on Sunday suggesting that the membership currently sits at 78,000, around 50,000 lower than the party claimed in 2019.

Concerns have also been raised that so-called ghost members – those who have not paid their membership dues but are still on the list due to being given a three-month grace period – could be allowed to vote in the election

Regan has asked Murrell to disclose the total number of paid-up members, the number of digital voting papers that have been sent out, and the number of physical voting papers that have been issued.

“We request that you provide essential information pertaining to the current membership status and voting procedures within the SNP, which is necessary for ensuring a fair and transparent leadership election,” she wrote.

“We have previously reached out to national secretary, Lorna Finn, with a request for this information. However, we have yet to receive a response, which has prompted us to address this matter through a formal open letter.

“As the chief executive officer of the SNP, it is your responsibility to ensure that the leadership election process is transparent, fair, and equitable. Providing this information is crucial to fostering trust and confidence among the candidates, their campaign teams, and the party members who are participating in the election.”

Regan asked Murrell to share the information “as soon as possible” to “demonstrate the SNP's commitment to democratic values and principles but also [to] help maintain a strong and united party during this leadership contest”.

Yousaf's campaign manager Neil Gray – the culture minister – said he was also calling for transparency around the party's membership stats.

"Yesterday, Humza's campaign team also asked for the figures to be published and sought assurances this would be done as soon as possible," he said.

A spokespeson for the SNP said that information regarding turnout, the number of votes cast, and how those votes translate to a proportion of the membership would be published at the end of the election process.

"Candidates have already been made aware that responsibility for the leadership election does not rest with any member of staff," they added.

SNP president Michael Russell has confirmed he supports publishing party membership figures. He said he has "full confidence" in Finn, the external verification and count for the election. 

He went on: "I am disgusted by the abuse directed at SNP staff by individuals who damage our cause and aid our enemies."

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