SNP interim chief executive Mike Russell has been accused of a “ridiculous” reaction after blaming social media for the party’s messy collapse.
He’s also been mocked for claiming he doesn’t know there’s been a massive exodus of party members over the past two years – despite being the SNP president.
The car crash interview on BBC1’s The Sunday Show came after Peter Murrell resigned on Saturday after taking responsibility for false statements to the media.
READ MORE: SNP election mess as ex-member says she was able to vote in leadership election
Mr. Russell was CEO before Mr. Murrell got the job in 1999, and many would say he was just another member of the ruling cabal closing ranks around Nicola Sturgeon.
The competition to choose her successor has descended into utter chaos amid allegations of vote-rigging to favor “continuity candidate” Humza Yousaf over rivals Kate Forbes and Ash Regan.
Asked how it all went so wrong so quickly, Mr Russell said SNP staff and politicians were under “tremendous pressure” and “the greatest scrutiny”.
He added: “Some of the social media stuff was absolutely reprehensible. You know, our employees have been horribly abused. Now I think this is part of a competition in a social media age that we haven’t had before. But yes, there are lessons we need to learn.”
Scottish Labor Party Deputy Leader Jackie Baillie sneered: “Mike Russell trying to blame social media for the repeated failures of his party apparatus during this leadership election is simply ridiculous.
“The truth is this election is in chaos – with allegations and resignations emerging daily.”
“He has to be the sloppiest, most disinterested and loosest party leader ever”
Last month, Holyrood spin chief Murray Foote launched a full-scale PR blitz to quash reports that 30,000 members had left the party since late 2021.
However, the Nats were eventually forced to admit the reports were TRUE as the numbers fell from 104,000 to 72,000. Mr Foote then said SNP headquarters gave him false information, effectively forcing Mr Murrell to recall or resign.
In his interview today, Mr Russell said he had “no idea why that took place, no idea whatsoever,” adding: “I’m not going to speculate on what happened there, but we need an answer to that.” The reason I didn’t know was that they are reported every year and we didn’t have the report.”
In a contender for understatement of the year, he admitted: “I think it’s fair to say there’s a tremendous mess and we need to clean it up.”
Scottish Conservative leader Craig Hoy said: “Mike Russell has to be the most sloppy, disinterested and unconcerned party leader ever.
“He asks us to believe he had no idea what the SNP’s membership numbers were until they were released a few days ago, nor who was responsible for ordering the party’s former chief spin doctor to create a absolutely accurate newspaper account of that number.
“This is symptomatic of the secrecy and lack of accountability infecting the top of the SNP.
And Ms. Baillie said: “There is no way the President of the SNP was unaware of the exodus of members from the party.”