A SENIOR councillor from the SNP has launched a bid to be their Inverclyde candidate at next year’s Holyrood election.

Chris McEleny's announcement looks set to trigger a dramatic contest with party colleague Stuart McMillan, who has served at the Scottish Parliament since 2007 and became the constituency MSP four years ago.

Mr McEleny, who is standing down as council opposition group leader in the Municipal Buildings, has today set out his stall for his MSP push.

He says he will put economic recovery for the area from coronavirus, tackling deprivation and the case for Scottish independence at heart of his bid.

Cllr McEleny, who was first elected in 2012, says he believes that more working class voices are needed in the Scottish Parliament.

He has sent an open letter to party members confirming that he will be seeking the nomination to be the SNP candidate for the Greenock & Inverclyde seat, highlighting 'a strong track record gained over the past decade as Inverclyde Council SNP leader'.

He added: "It would be the privilege of my life to represent our whole community in our nation's parliament.

“Inverclyde has so much potential and re-industrialising our waterfront to create quality jobs and attract much needed investment into the area would be one of my top priorities as part of a wider strategy of reducing the levels of deprivation in our area and increasing the quality of life for everyone.’’

McEleny has built up a national profile over the years having previously stood for the role of depute leader of the Scottish National Party and served two terms on its ruling national executive.

The SNP man is also a high profile figure in the wider grassroots independence movement and a prime mover behind a growing debate about how it can secure independence if Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to block a new referendum.

Mr McEleny said: “As we enter the nomination period for the Holyrood elections, now more than ever I believe that Scotland must be an independent country so that we can choose to build a fairer nation as opposed to having the policies of Boris Johnson imposed upon us by a UK Government we simply do not vote for."

The Holyrood hopeful has pledged that he would be a 'strong voice for Inverclyde' and 'stand up for Scotland’s right to choose its own future as an independent nation'.

The nomination period is expected to open in the middle of August, with SNP members then asked to cast their vote for their choice of candidate at the end of September.

At the moment Mr McEleny is the first and only candidate to declare, but sitting MSP Mr McMillan is firmly expected to seek the nomination again following a first stint as constituency MSP.

He secured a majority of over 8,000 in 2016 and has a total of 13 years' experience under his belt at Holyrood having previously been a list member.

Cllr McEleny has led the SNP in Inverclyde Council since 2013 and last year he announced his intention to stand down from the role.

Due to the pandemic he was asked to continue in the role during the crisis.

The SNP council group will elect a new leader to replace him on Wednesday.