Nicola Sturgeon denies SNP in crisis despite 'painful' leadership raceMarch 16, 2023
Nicola Sturgeon admits SNP leadership contest is ‘painful’ but denies party is in crisis amid furious row among rivals over ballot legitimacy – but First Minister can’t help but smile as her potential successors are compared to Donald Trump supporters
- Nicola Sturgeon admits contest to elect her successor as SNP leader is ‘painful’
- But she denies the party is in ‘crisis’ amid a furious row over the election process
Nicola Sturgeon today admitted the contest to elect her successor was ‘painful’ but denied the SNP was in ‘crisis’ – despite a fierce row among rivals over the legitimacy of the ballot.
Leadership hopefuls Kate Forbes and Ash Regan have demanded an independent auditor be drafted in to oversee the election amid concerns about transparency.
Both have also asked questions about the role of Ms Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell, who is the SNP’s chief executive.
Humza Yousaf, the Scottish Health Secretary and a close ally of Ms Sturgeon, has been branded the ‘party machine candidate’ – after being backed by many SNP big-hitters – and is seen as the frontrunner in the contest between him, Ms Forbes and Ms Regan.
Ms Sturgeon this afternoon dismissed concerns about the leadership contest, saying they were not ‘justified’ and that the SNP was following a ‘tried and trusted’ process.
She also could not hide a smile when those hoping to succeed her as First Minister were compared to supporters of Donald Trump, who have claimed the 2020 US presidential election was ‘stolen’ from him.
Nicola Sturgeon could not hide a smile in the Scottish Parliament when those hoping to succeed her as First Minister were compared to supporters of Donald Trump
Leadership hopefuls Kate Forbes (middle) and Ash Regan (right) have demanded an independent auditor be drafted in to oversee the election amid concerns about transparency
Ms Sturgeon was seen smirking during First Minister’s Questions when Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar mocked the state of the SNP leadership contest.
He told the Scottish Parliament: ‘Rather the confronting the NHS crisis, we have an SNP talking to themselves about themselves.
‘In fact it seems the only things missing from this SNP leadership election is an Ash Regan press conference outside the Four Seasons, or maybe a Saltire-waving ‘Stop The Steal’ rally by Kate Forbes outside Holyrood.
‘And, meanwhile, the machine candidate – the incompetent Humza Yousaf – is presiding over chaos in Scotland’s NHS.’
As Mr Trump made baseless allegations of electoral fraud in November 2020, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani gave a remarkable press conference outside a Philadephia business known as ‘Four Seasons Total Landscaping’.
This was rather than the Four Seasons hotel that Mr Trump had initially advertised the event being hosted at.
As well as the recent row over the legitimacy of the ballot, the SNP leadership contest has also been marked by brutal exchanges between the candidates during live TV debates.
This has seen Ms Forbes tear into Mr Yousaf’s ministerial record and even suggest he should be sacked as Health Secretary, while he has claimed her election as SNP leader would see the party ‘lurching to the right’.
Speaking to journalists after FMQs, Ms Sturgeon denied her party was ‘in crisis’.
‘No, it is not,’ she said. ‘My party is having a democratic leadership election – growing pains for any organisation can be painful, but they are important.
‘I think it’s incumbent for the three candidates standing to succeed me that they remember the task is to retain the trust of the Scottish people that we have won consistently over, not just the eight years of my leadership, but consistently since 2007.’
Ms Sturgeon added that she was unclear about the allegations being made by Ms Forbes and Ms Regan about the leadership election.
‘I am not absolutely clear what the specific allegations about the process are,’ she said.
‘This is a tried and tested process that the party has trusted for years. As far as I can tell, there are no specific concerns being raised, it’s a general concern, and I don’t think that general concern is justified.
‘I have confidence, I have 100 per cent confidence, in the integrity of that system.’
Humza Yousaf, the frontrunner in the SNP leadership race, has dismissed concerns about the election process as ‘baseless smears’
Ms Regan today acknowledged that Mi-Voice, the company currently undertaking the election process, were an ‘independent’ firm but noted they were ‘also on contract to the SNP’.
‘Just for the sake of increased transparency, my view is it should be a separate company that the SNP don’t have an ongoing relationship with, and we’ve also called for an independent observer, just to oversee the process,’ she added.
Yesterday, Michelle Thomson – who is running Ms Forbes’ campaign – said she had asked the SNP to ‘appoint a robust, experienced, third-party auditor of both the ballot processes and the eventual tally of the vote’.
Mr Yousaf has dismissed the concerns about the election process as ‘baseless smears’.
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