HUMZA Yousaf is aiming to recruit a new Scottish Government spin doctor on top of replacing the SNP media chief.

The First Minister has decided not to appoint any of his existing special advisers to the top job and will be looking to make an external appointment instead.

Stuart Nicholson, a former Daily Mail reporter, joined the government in 2008 and had been Nicola Sturgeon’s head of communications.

A key point of contact with the media, Nicholson previously chaired tough post-FMQs briefings with journalists and was Sturgeon’s official spokesperson while she was FM.

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However, following Yousaf’s first FMQs before parliamentary recess, Nicholson was not present at the first briefing for the new administration, prompting rumours he had been relieved of his duties.

Whoever takes on the next role will not only be Yousaf’s official spokesperson, but running strategic communications for the Scottish Government and chair the FMQs briefings.

And as well as aiming to replace Nicholson, Yousaf is also on the hunt for a new SNP head of communications at Holyrood following the resignation of former Daily Record editor Murray Foote.

Nicholson (pictured above, back row, centre) was present at Sturgeon's last Cabinet meeting as FM. 

It comes as Sturgeon’s former top adviser Liz Lloyd and net zero adviser John McFarlane also left the Government as the former FM headed to the back benches.

The spin doctor post comes with a salary of up to £90,000, and as the person would serve at the request of the FM, there is reportedly no need for a formal appointment process, meaning someone could simply be “tapped” for the job.

A government source told The Herald: “I don’t think anyone internal will be appointed. Someone from outside will be brought in and made a special adviser in Stuart’s old role.”

The incoming media chief will certainly have a busy in tray - with discontent over the Deposit Return Scheme among the back benches, as well as other policy areas like gender reforms, the NHS crisis and recovery from the pandemic, the cost of living and energy crises, and other pressing issues.

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There is also a looming likely by-election in Rutherglen, after then SNP MP Margaret Ferrier broke Covid rules, and has now been suspended from the House of Commons, and a General Election is set to be held in 2024.

Foote quit the top SNP media job last month after he was misled by HQ over how many members the party had and following inaccurate briefings provided to journalists.

The role is currently being advertised with applications due to close on April 14.

The row over membership numbers led to Peter Murrell standing down from the role of chief executive, another post the SNP will be keen to fill, with party President Mike Russell taking on the role on a temporary basis until a replacement is found.

Yousaf has said there will be an “open process” to find the right person to replace Murrell.

It comes after the former chief executive's home, which he shares with Sturgeon, was searched by police over two days as part of a probe into the SNP’s finances.

Murrell was arrested on Wednesday but later released without charge.