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Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell has been elected to the presidency of the Scottish National Party at the SNP National Conference.
Mr Russell, 67, gained almost 70 per cent of delegates’ votes in a three-way contest which also involved former British Ambassador Craig Murray and ex-MP Corri Wilson.
The role has previously been held by leading nationalist figures such as former Highlands and Islands MEP ‘Madame Ecosse’ Winnie Ewing; 1970s Parliamentary leader Donnie Stewart and one-time party chair Billy Wolfe.
It is a non-executive position which the party’s constitution describes as being ‘in recognition of distinguished service to the party’.
The holder also becomes a member of the party’s National Executive Committee.
Mr Russell, who steps down from Holyrood ahead of next year’s election, is the serving Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for the constitution, Europe and external affairs.
He said: ‘I have been a member of the SNP since 1974 and I am very honoured and grateful for the overwhelming support of the party in choosing me for the position.
‘The presidency is a post that has been held by some of those whom I most admire and respect in the movement and whose contribution has been vital in securing our progress.
‘I will do my very best to measure up to the standards of service and effort they set over the years and I look forward to working with all party members to further our cause and achieve the aim for which the party was founded 86 years ago – to achieve independence for Scotland.’
Mr Russell becomes the firstparty president from Argyll and Bute, and remains a member of his local branch, based in Strachur on the Cowal Peninsula.
He is also the first SNP President to have served in a Scottish Government.
Mr Russell added: ‘These are crucial times for Scotland and for everyone who lives here. The pandemic is far from over but we do need to start thinking about rebuilding and recovery, and the matter of who leads that process must be resolved in Scotland’s favour. Only independence can secure that and the ability to decide for ourselves how we go forward.
‘A significant and clear election victory next May is needed for that process to get under way, and electoral success comes from unity of purpose.
‘The SNP must have every member working enthusiastically and well together and my first priority will be to support the new office bearers and NEC in ensuring an open, democratic, very focused and totally unified approach to the coming campaign.’
The SNP recently selected Jenni Minto, of Islay, to run as its candidate for Holyrood.