SNP chief executive Peter Morrell has resigned with immediate effect in a dispute over party membership.
Morell, who is married to outgoing party leader Nicola Sturgeon, said it had become a distraction from the leadership race.
The party was Forced to confirm a significant decrease in the numbers of its memberswhich was previously denied.
In a statement this afternoon, Mr Morrell said: “Responsibility for SNP responses to media inquiries about our membership number rests with me as CEO.
“While not intended to mislead, I accept that this was the result.
“I have therefore decided to confirm my intention to step down as CEO with immediate effect.
I did not plan to confirm this decision until after the leadership election.
However, as my future was becoming a distraction from the campaign, I concluded that I should now stand down, so that the party could concentrate fully on issues relating to the future of Scotland.
He added, “The election contest is run by the national secretary and I had no part in it at any time.
“I am very proud of what has been achieved in my time as CEO and of the role I have played in securing the electoral success the party has enjoyed for nearly two decades.
“14 wins in the national election is a testament to the skills of the dedicated and talented HQ team I have been privileged to lead.
“They give everything they have to the party and the cause of independence and I thank them for that.
“I have worked for independence my whole life and will continue to do so, albeit in a different capacity, until it is achieved – and I firmly believe that independence is now closer than ever.”
On Friday, the SNP’s head of media at Holyrood, Murray Foote, resigned, saying there were “serious issues” in statements he made “in good faith” on behalf of party headquarters.
SNP leadership candidate Hamza Yusuf said: “Peter Morell was an outstanding servant of the independence movement and the SNP.
“As I have said repeatedly throughout this campaign, he is the most electorally successful chief executive of any party in the UK and the SNP has been fortunate to have him.
“Our election victory from 2007 to 2021 owes a lot to his political abilities.
“It is vital that we all focus on the policies and vision we have for the party, the movement and the country,” he said.
Party leadership candidate Ash Reagan said: “Eight years ago the point was when it was unacceptable for the party leader’s husband to be the chief executive.
“I am encouraged to see the party’s democratic foundations now asserting their proper function.”
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