MICHAEL Russell has moved aside as interim chief executive of the SNP as the hunt for a new permanent holder of the position kicks off.

The SNP president will be temporarily replaced in the role during the recruitment process by Sue Ruddick, who had been the party’s chief operating officer.

Amid a mini-reshuffle at SNP HQ, Julie Hepburn has been given the role of head of strategic delivery. This will see her “provide additional support on party structures and operations”.

A former candidate for SNP depute leader, Hepburn is married to the Scottish Government's new Minister for Independence, Jamie Hepburn.

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Russell had taken on the interim chief executive position after Peter Murrell, the husband of former SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, resigned amid a row over membership figures.

Murrell was later arrested, questioned, and released without charge amid a police probe into the party’s finances.

A spokesperson for the SNP said the appointment process for a new permanent replacement to Murrell will be “open and public facing” with “applications sought from the widest possible pool of candidates”.

The new SNP chief executive will “oversee the management of the party and drive forward on transparency and governance”, they added.

SNP business convener Kirsten Oswald said: “This is an opportunity for the SNP to push forward with a renewed focus and we look forward to engaging with candidates who have the skills and experience to deliver for our members as we focus on strengthening our internal structures.”

A party spokesperson added that the changes announced on Wednesday would “ensure the continued delivery of HQ functions and provision of support to SNP members, whilst allowing work to commence on reviewing governance and transparency arrangements”.

The news comes after Humza Yousaf, the SNP leader, said that accountancy firm Johnston Carmichael had resigned from auditing the party’s account in “about October” – meaning the SNP has been without auditors for several months.

The party has informed watchdogs at the Electoral Commission – to which it has to submit accounts in July – of a “difficulty in identifying replacement auditors”.