Yousaf will speak to Peter Murrell about his role if he wins the SNP competition

The Health Secretary said today he had considered Mr Murrell an “election winner” for “many years”.

But he added: “One of the first things I’ll do if I’m elected leader of the SNP is talk to Peter and see what his plans are for the future.”

Mr Yousaf also revealed that Angus Roberston – the latest member of the cabinet supporting his bid for the leadership – would play a role in government if he won the competition and become First Minister for the Protection of the Constitution.

CONTINUE READING: Yousaf slams Cherry for sharing a ‘disgusting’ Twitter post

“Angus is tremendously talented. When I am First Minister of Scotland you can bet he will have a role in the Scottish Government,” he told reporters during a campaign rally at Glasgow University.

“He would be most people’s first choice. I’d be surprised whoever the next First Minister is that they haven’t included Angus in their cabinet.”

However, he went on to say that internal elections were still a few weeks away and would not comment on whether Mr Robertston would be his choice as Deputy First Secretary after John Swinney announced he would resign from his post if Ms Sturgeon’s successor as SNP leader and First Minister is elected.

Mr Murrell has been urged to step down from the role since Ms Sturgeon became SNP chair in 2014. Critics said the couple exerted too much influence in the party.

CONTINUE READING: Tories urge SNP leadership hopefuls to stop ‘attacks’ on press

He also faced questions earlier this year when it was revealed he had given the SNP a £107,000 personal loan.

Last month the party appointed an independent firm to oversee its leadership election after criticism that Mr Murrell was playing too central a role in the competition amid concerns Ms Sturgeon would favor Mr Yousaf as the successor over his rivals.

SNP veteran Alex Neil, a former health secretary, said at the time there was “a low level of trust” in party headquarters.

He added: “It’s not really acceptable that the SNP boss plays such a central role. I am not accusing anyone of anything, but it is clear that the party hierarchy has a preferred candidate.”

Mr Yousaf, the health minister, has emerged as the candidate with the blessing of the party establishment, while his main rival, Kate Forbes, the finance minister, has positioned herself as the candidate for change.

CONTINUE READING: Yousaf has been criticized for “pathetic” A&E waits after fifth straight surge

Ash Regan, the former ward safety minister and third contender, is seen as a competitive outlier.

Ms Regan has previously said it was inappropriate to have a party leader who is married to the chief executive.

SNP officials have insisted Mr Murrell has no role or oversight in the leadership election, which begins Monday and ends March 27.

The election result is the only voting information provided and will be communicated directly to the national secretary of the SNP after the election is completed, the party said.

Ms Forbes has previously declined to be asked whether Mr Murrell should remain chief executive.

She said last month, “I think we need fresh faces in the SNP, that’s why I’m running for election, but ultimately that’s a question for Peter Murrell.”

Mr. Yousaf has previously said during the competition that internal party reform was needed, but did not believe the chief executive should step aside.

SNP headquarters have been forced to repeatedly deny claims that it was used to help Mr Yousaf after it banned Emma Harper, an MSP, from sending party emails after she used the system to solicit members to encourage voting for Mr Yousaf.

On Monday, Mr Yousaf dismissed any suggestion of inappropriate behavior by the party hierarchy.

His comments came after Joanna Cherry, one of the party’s most prominent MPs supporting Ms Regan, said the SNP “party machine” was behind Mr Yousaf, while Jackie Baillie, the Scottish Labor vice-leader, called on the SNP to step down “Openness and Integrity” at the heart of the process.

“I think there are people who are throwing around accusations without any basis,” Mr Yousaf said on Monday.

“It probably speaks to how concerned they are about their own campaigns. I think if anyone has evidence of headquarters or party machine involvement in a campaign, they should bring it up.” Yousaf will speak to Peter Murrell about his role if he wins the SNP competition

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