The former minister was appointed interim chief executive on Saturday following the sudden resignation of Peter Murrell amid allegations of a sharp decline in party membership.
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Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Show, Mr Russell said the collapse of the party following Ms Sturgeon’s resignation and the resulting succession contest had “not been an instructive process”.
“The SNP has not had a contested leadership for 19 years. And it is visible. We got out of practice in this and what happened was not good for the party and for Scotland” he said.
“I think the party is fundamentally good, a party that is focused on the good of Scotland. But things have gone wrong in recent weeks, and it’s too bad. And we have to deal with it and be open,” he added. .
The former minister said that despite being the chairman of the party, he did not know that 30,000 people had left the party in a few months and why so many people had left the party.
“We were losing members, and we were losing members that we absolutely should have known about,” he said.
“It is clear that we were not told about it. That’s what I want to know, why it happened, but I don’t want to know it this week.
“What I want to know this week is that we can complete the process and we can get a new leader of the party.”
READ MORE: Peter Murrell to step down as SNP chief executive with immediate effect
Asked why the party was trying to mislead the public, he said, “I have no idea why this happened. I have no idea at all. I have a lot of respect for Murray Foote. I worked very closely with him. had known Peter for a long time. I’m not going to dwell on what happened then. But we need an answer to that.”
Mr Russell said he had spoken to the candidates and that Kate Forbes and Humza Yousaf had “reaffirmed their belief in the integrity of the process”.
He added: “I’m in dialogue with Ash Regan and hope to get to the same position. She has questions, and I’m very happy to answer them.”
When asked about Ms Regan and her threat of legal action to stop the bid, Mr Russell said he was unclear on what basis the former public safety minister could get the ban.
“I don’t think that’s the case for a variety of reasons, and I think the fact that the other two candidates have openly stated their belief in the integrity of the process is very positive.
“I don’t want to do anything other than have a dialogue with each of the candidates and try to convince them that it’s the right thing to do, and so I don’t want to make any claims about my conversations with Ash.
“But I want to be able to, I hope, convince her that this is a process that is full of integrity.”
READ MORE: The SNP has “lost the ability to listen and deliver”, writes Forbes
Mr Russell said the party should be “humbled” by the leadership contest and that it should “learn from the experience”.
Scottish Labor deputy leader Jackie Bailey said Mr Russell should “grab the thistles in the face of chaos in his own party”.
“If the SNP run their party like this, just imagine the chaos in government – Scotland deserves better,” she added.