Byline: LAURIE HANNA
SENIOR SNP members have threatened to quit if Alex Salmond wins his battle to regain the party's leadership.
High-profile MSPs fear the SNP will suffer if Salmond tries to lead from his base in London.
Instead, power in Holyrood would pass to Nicola Sturgeon, his deputy, until he returns from Westminster in 2007.
The plan has infuriated some members of the party who believe Sturgeon is not up to the job.
They fear the party will be dominated by Salmond, his close friend SNP chief executive Peter Murrell and his lover Sturgeon.
One party insider said: "Alex has not united the party by deciding to come back. Some people are thinking of leaving."
Last week Salmond, who quit as national convenor for the SNP in 2000, claimed he felt "obliged" to stand in the contest after receiving piles of "fan mail" from members begging him to come back.
But outspoken independent MSP Margo MacDonald, expelled from the SNP last year, warned that his return will cause resentment.
She said: "They are their own people with their own thinking, not just yes-men.
"He will divide the party into those who support him …