SNP leadership candidate Humza Yousaf has called the party’s dispute over membership an “own goal”.
Longtime chief executive Peter Murrell, who is the husband of Nicola Sturgeon, resigned on Saturday as he took responsibility for misleading figures reported to the press.
The SNP membership figures were released on Thursday after the three candidates vying to replace Nicola Sturgeon called for transparency about the exact number, which had dropped by about 30,000 in just over a year.
On Sunday, Mr Yousaf visited the Glasgow Gurdwara, where he met with members of the city’s Sikh community.
In a short address to community members in the gurdwara prayer hall, he thanked them and spoke about his own Punjabi heritage.
After the partition of India, his grandfather traveled to the Pakistani side of the Punjab, he said.
The Secretary of Health said: “Keep me in your prayers. I take prayers from wherever I can get them. This job can sometimes be quite difficult.”
Speaking to reporters afterwards, he was asked about the resignation of Mr Murrell and media chief Murray Foote.
Mr Yousaf said: “The match scored a bit of an own goal here, we should have released those membership numbers earlier at the start of this contest.
“But I want to reassure members, while the last few days have been absolutely challenging, I would not suggest otherwise, there is still a solid foundation to build on.
“Over 70,000 members makes us Scotland’s biggest and biggest political party by far.”
Asked if anyone in the party should apologize for the turmoil of the past few days, he said Murrell had done the “honorable” thing by resigning.
He added: “I want to pay tribute to Peter for the exceptional service he has provided.”
Yousaf said it would be important to appoint a new chief executive who could bridge the “disconnect” felt between branches and headquarters.
Speaking about the party’s finances, he said: “I haven’t delved into this, I don’t know the party’s finances because I don’t have an officer position.
“But clearly, if I’m elected SNP leader, that’s one of the first things I’d like to catch up on.”