Disabled SNP members have demanded they keep a place at the "decision-making table" as the fall-out from a row over how the party selects its candidates continues.

Divisions among Nationalists have emerged after the party's National Executive Committee (NEC) ruled that any sitting MP would have to resign their seat  before they could stand for election to the Scottish Parliament.

The fall-out from the decision has seen several high-ranking members question whether the body is still fit for purpose.

The disabled members' group has launched a petition following the publication last week of a leaked email from SNP MP Alyn Smith.

In the correspondence to party chiefs he said the NEC was “unwieldy” and said its expansion to 42 reps was an “experiment which has failed”.

Calling for the NEC to be downsized to improve its decison-making, he suggested wo­men’s, BAME and disabled members’ conveners could be replaced by an advisory “equalities forum”.

But that call has been rejected by members of the the SNP Disabled Members Group (DMG).

They are calling on Nationalists to consider other options when it comes to reforming the NEC.

SNP DMG co-convener Jamie Szymkowiak said: "Disabled SNP members have fought for years to have our seats at the decision making table, so it is utterly depressing to have one of our most prominent Parliamentarians blame disabled representatives for any issues that he may have with the way our Executive Committee functions.

"Disabled members will not be used as scapegoats. Mr Smith's claims that his proposals 'boost the equalities discussion', when in reality they relegate disabled people from the top-table, is a con-trick Iain Duncan Smith and Esther McVey would be proud of.

"I'm confident that the wider SNP membership, disabled people across Scotland and the general Scottish public, value the inclusion of disabled people and will support disabled members of the SNP by rejecting Alyn Smith's retrograde proposals." 

Former SNP MSP Dennis Robertson, who is backing the petition, said: "Disabled members bring a richness to the SNP and as Scotland's first blind MSP, I appreciate that we must never compromise in our right to play an equal part in delivering progressive policies and achieving our main goal of independence.

"It has taken many years to achieve well-earned places on the NEC and it would send out the wrong message if disabled members' contributions were sidelined to an alternative platform.

"It is vital that disabled people are represented in every area of public life, including in our own party."

An SNP spokesman said: “Any proposal that makes it past the Conferences Committee for debate at Annual Conference would be voted on by delegates, and not decided by petitions.

"As things stand, there is no debate, and the NEC includes a Disabled Members Convener, elected by Conference, and a representative of the affiliated Disabled Members Group, chosen by their own membership.”