SNP Leadership Contest A Three-Horse Race As Kate Forbes Announces Bid

The cabinet secretary for finance and the economy is widely seen as a frontrunner in the race to replace Nicola Sturgeon.
Kate Forbes joins Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan in the SNP leadership race.
Kate Forbes joins Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan in the SNP leadership race.
Ken Jack via Getty Images

The race to replace Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader and Scotland’s first minister has intensified after another contender officially threw their hat in the ring.

Kate Forbes, Scotland’s cabinet secretary for finance and the economy, confirmed she would stand in the contest to replace Sturgeon, who announced her shock resignation last week following a turbulent period in her leadership.

Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf has already announced he will run for the post, as has former community safety minister Ash Regan, who resigned from her ministerial position in protest at the Scottish government’s gender reform plans.

Forbes came to prominence last year when she delivered the Scottish budget with less than 24 hours notice.

In a statement, Forbes said: “I am today launching my bid to become Scotland’s next first minister, with the vision, experience and competence to inspire voters across Scotland.

“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.”

Forbes’s confirmation comes just hours after Angus Robertson, the bookies’ favourite to take over from Sturgeon, ruled himself out of the leadership race.

The Edinburgh Central MSP and the SNP’s former Westminster leader said he had decided not to stand due to family commitments.

He wrote on Twitter: “Since Nicola Sturgeon announced she is stepping down I have been encouraged by many to consider running for the SNP leadership and to become first minister.

“It is a real privilege and honour for people to wish me to stand and I am very thankful for their trust.

“However, as the father of two very young children the time is not right for me and my family to take on such a huge commitment.”

John Swinney, the deputy first minister and cabinet secretary for Covid recovery, also confirmed he would not stand, saying the party needed a “fresh perspective” to revive the flailing campaign for independence.

SNP depute leader, Keith Brown, and the SNP’s Westminster leader, Stephen Flynn have also ruled themselves out, as has Ukraine minister Neil Gray and the environment minister, Mairi McAllan.

The race to replace Sturgeon will last less than six weeks. The process has been sped up by the fact that it has postponed plans to hold a special conference on independence on March 19.

Sturgeon had proposed that members decide at the special gathering what route the SNP would take to achieving independence, including using the next general election, expected in 2024, as a “de facto” referendum on independence.

After a meeting of the party’s national executive committee, those eying the top job have until February 24 to submit their nomination, with the vote open between March 13 and 27.

According to SNP rules, candidates must get at least 100 nominations from party members from at least 20 local branches. If more than one candidate receives the required nominations, a postal vote will be held.

The party said the results of the contest will be made public as soon as the result is determined and after the candidates have been told.


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