A close ally of Nicola Sturgeon sent a letter out to ex-SNP members pleading for them to rejoin as the party was engulfed in a scandal over trying to claim 30,000 had not quit the party. The letter from SNP President Michael Russell was sent out ahead of the leadership election after Ms Sturgeon announced she was stepping down.

The row has seen Ms Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell resign as chief executive of the SNP over the weekend. Prior to that communications chief Murray Foote left his role for putting out false claims about membership numbers.

At least one leadership candidate Ash Regan is understood to be considering a legal challenge to have a rerun of the contest amid doubts over its transparency.

The row exploded after the Sunday Mail published an article claiming that 30,000 had left the SNP over the failure to bring forward a second independence referendum and the fury over Ms Sturgeon pushing the gender recognition reform legislation which would have allowed rapists to get to female prisons.

But the SNP leadership vehemently denied the reports until last week when it was revealed that the membership is 72,186, a drop of more than 30,000 from what it had previously claimed.

Express.co.uk has now seen a letter sent by party President Michael Russell, who is also now SNP acting chief executive, pleading with form members to come back.

The letter says: “I was sorry to see that your SNP membership has expired.

“Please let us know if there is any way we can support you in continuing your membership.”

It went on: “With Westminster intent on denying Scotland the right to have a choice about Scotland’s future, your support and involvement are more vital than ever.

“In these important days I would be delighted to welcome you back into membership.”

Over the weekend, Mr Russell told BBC Scotland that the whole situation was “a mess”.

But he insisted that he did not know the actual membership figures and was trying to understand what had happened.

However, sources told Express.co.uk that the letter proves senior figures around Nicola Sturgeon “must have known” about the true collapse in membership for the party when they were claiming the opposite.

It is understood that questions are being asked about whether people who rejoined at the last minute thanks to Mr Russell’s letter were being given the opportunity to vote in the leadership election.

Concerns have already been expressed over the lack of independent oversight of the election where most of the party establishment has backed the current frontrunner Humza Yousaf, another Sturgeon ally.

*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.