Three SNP hopefuls battling it out to take over from Nicola SturgeonFebruary 21, 2023
The devout Christian married to a chimneysweep, the health chief with doubts about a ‘de facto’ independence referendum, and the MSP who quit over looser gender ID laws: The three SNP hopefuls battling to take over from Nicola Sturgeon
- Race is on to take over from Nicola Sturgeon as leader of SNP and First Minister
- Kate Forbes, long tipped as a potential successor, made announcement today
SNP leadership hopefuls slated Nicola Sturgeon’s legacy today as the battle to succeed her intensified.
Kate Forbes has cut short her maternity leave to become the third confirmed candidate.
The Scottish finance secretary – regarded by many as the front-runner despite concerns about her ties to a church that is against abortion and gay marriage – swiped that the SNP needs ‘wider’ appeal and someone who is ‘fresh-faced’.
Meanwhile, health secretary Humza Yousaf made clear he has serious doubts about Ms Sturgeon’s plan to turn the next general election into a ‘de facto’ independence referendum.
The other declared contender, Ash Regan, previously resigned from the Scottish government so she could vote against its abortive bid to loosen gender identity rules.
Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson said this morning that he will not stand for the party’s top job.
Kate Forbes (pictured in Glasgow today) has cut short her maternity leave to become the third confirmed candidate
Health secretary Humza Yousaf (pictured launching his campaign in West Dunbartonshire today) made clear he has serious doubts about Nicola Sturgeon’s plan to turn the next general election into a ‘de facto’ independence referendum
The other declared contender, Ash Regan (pictured), previously resigned from the Scottish government so she could vote against its abortive bid to loosen gender identity rules
Ms Sturgeon (pictured on a visit to Midlothian today) dropped the bombshell that she is quitting last week, after a torrid spell where the SNP slid into chaos over its abortive bid to loosen gender identity rules and dwindling support for independence
Scottish finance secretary Kate Forbes swiped at the need to ‘widen’ the SNP’s appeal as she confirmed she is a candidate in a slick video
Ms Sturgeon dropped the bombshell that she is quitting last week, after a torrid spell where the SNP slid into chaos over its abortive bid to loosen gender identity rules and dwindling support for independence.
On a visit to the Roslin Institute in Midlothian today, minutes before Ms Forbes’s declaration, she voiced ‘enormous confidence that the SNP will choose someone of ability’.
‘Clearly, there’s a spectrum of talent on display there.’
In a video posted on social media featuring footage of the stunning Scottish landscape, a tartan-clad Ms Forbes nodded to the apparently stalling separatist campaign north of the border.
Warning that the nationalists risked being ‘thwarted on the road to self-determination’, she said she had the ‘vision, experience and competence to inspire voters across Scotland’.
Who is SNP leadership contender Kate Forbes?
Kate Forbes is a leading member of Ms Sturgeon’s administration who is being tipped as the favourite to replace her.
The fluent Gaelic speaker became the Scottish government’s finance secretary in February 2020, the first woman to hold the post.
Kate Forbes married Alasdair MacLennan – a widower chimney sweep 10 years her senior – in July 2021.
Their wedding was streamed online because Covid restrictions limited how many people could attend.
The 32-year-old went on maternity leave last July – the first ever serving Scottish Cabinet secretary to do so – and gave birth to her daughter Naomi in August.
Previously it was thought Ms Forbes did not harbour leadership ambitions, although she has been touted as a future SNP leader since entering the Scottish Parliament as MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch in 2016.
The daughter of missionaries, Ms Forbes spent much of her childhood in India.
She is a member of the Free Church of Scotland, sometimes known as the ‘Wee Frees’, which is opposed to gay marriage and believes there are few circumstances in which abortion is justified.
Ms Forbes has previously said she has been ‘guilty’ of ‘tiptoeing around’ her Christian faith in interviews.
Ms Sturgeon’s government was accused of rushing through its controversial gender identity reforms before Christmas, while Ms Forbes remained on maternity leave, in order to prevent a potential revolt by the 32 year old.
‘We urgently need to unleash the full talent of the SNP, the wider Yes movement and the country at large,’ she said.
Ms Forbes has been hotly tipped despite concerns that her ties to an evangelical church opposed to gay marriage and abortion could be damaging.
Appearing in the video against the backdrop of the Scottish landscape and with a tartan scarf draped around her neck, Ms Forbes said: ‘Friends in the SNP, our nation and our movement are at a major crossroads. The choices that we make in the next few weeks will have a profound impact on our future and on our children’s future.
‘I can’t sit back and watch our nation thwarted on the road to self-determination. Our small independent neighbours enjoy wealthier, fairer and greener societies and so should we.
‘We urgently need to unleash the full talent of the SNP, the wider Yes movement and the country at large.
‘We need to choose strong, competent leadership to deliver independence, the leadership that I can offer.
‘I believe we need someone who can unite our party and our movement. I’m a unifier, I’ll reach out and listen so that every member feels valued and able to contribute.
‘That’s also important if we’re to persuade others of the merits of independence. But right now we also need somebody with a grip on our economy and our finances.
‘In the throes of a cost-of-living crisis and the need to plan for independence, my years managing Scotland’s budget and economy have given me the experience that we need to do just that.
‘More than anything we need a leader who is bold, brave and energised, fresh faced and ready for new challenges.
‘Somebody who inspires your confidence as an SNP member and who inspires the confidence of the people of Scotland to vote for a better future
‘I am that leader and I want to lead our party into better days with integrity and commitment for the sake of your children and my children.’
Mr Yousaf and former community safety minister Ms Regan clashed on three major policy issues yesterday – independence, gender reform and road-building – as they confirmed their decision to enter the contest.
The health spokesman officially launched his campaign at Clydebank today.
Following the Supreme Court ruling that Holyrood could not legislate on a referendum without Westminster’s consent, Ms Sturgeon outlined her intention to campaign for a pro-independence majority at the UK-wide election, due to be held next year.
But Mr Yousaf insisted that policy will not necessarily stay in place.
‘I’ve got some concerns. I’m not wedded to the idea of using a general election as a de facto referendum,’ he said.
‘But what I would say is that we have to stop talking about process, and start talking about policy, because if independence becomes the settled will of the Scottish people then those political obstacles will disappear.’
Mr Yousaf said he could not pretend that the gender identity law pushed by Ms Sturgeon had not ’caused some division’ within the SNP.
But he promised to stand by the legislation and challenge the UK government’s decision to block it with a Section 35 order.
He said: ‘There’s the principle of the Section 35 order which I think we have to defend the Scottish Parliament against that.
‘But I think on the issue more broadly, I’d be keen to work with those who have got real concerns. Let’s engage with them. Let’s try to bring them around the table. Let’s not let this issue define us as a movement.’
Mr Yousaf appears to be winning support from many of Ms Sturgeon’s key allies, while a briefing campaign was launched against Ms Forbes.
Ms Sturgeon’s resignation came before a shock poll suggesting the SNP and Labour are nearly neck and neck in support for a Westminster election (figures in percentages)
There are claims the Scottish Greens could pull out of their current power-sharing agreement at Holyrood if Ms Forbes takes over.
The 32-year-old is a member of the Free Church of Scotland, sometimes known as the ‘Wee Frees’, which is opposed to gay marriage and believes there are few circumstances in which abortion is justified.
SNP deputy leader Keith Brown, Environment Minister Mairi McAllan and Culture Minister Neil Gray all confirmed yesterday that they will not stand.
Ms Forbes has long been seen as a potential successor to the First Minister.
She was thrust into the limelight by having to step in and deliver the Scottish budget at the 11th hour in 2020 after her predecessor Derek Mackay resigned in disgrace.
Candidates have until Friday to secure 100 nominations from at least 20 local branches to secure their place on the ballot, with the new SNP leader being announced on March 27.
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