SNP leadership candidates clash in heated TV debate

The candidates to replace Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the Scottish National Party and Scotland’s first minister attacked each other’s records in a heated televised debate that revealed tensions within the party.

The hostile tone of Tuesday night’s debate on STV suggests the SNP may struggle to restore unity in a party that has governed Scotland since 2007 and has been led by Sturgeon for its discipline and unity in pursuing its goal of independence from the STV known was UNITED KINGDOM.

In the campaign’s first televised debate, Kate Forbes, the finance minister, launched a scathing attack on the record of health minister Humza Yousaf, the frontrunner who has also garnered the support of most of the party’s heavyweights. Forbes suggested that she would not keep him in his current position should she win.

“When you were transport minister the trains were never on time, when you were justice minister the police were strained to the breaking point and now as health minister we have record-breaking wait times,” she told Hamza.

Forbes’s reiteration of the rival parties’ lines of attack against one of Sturgeon’s longest-serving ministers has been welcomed by opposition leaders but could risk alienating some SNP supporters.

Sturgeon’s shocking announcement last month that she was stepping down from a post she had held since 2014 sparked the first leadership struggle in the Independence Party in two decades.

The contest focused on the party’s independence strategy after Sturgeon’s plan for a “de facto referendum” met opposition within the SNP. As Scotland’s longest-serving First Minister, Sturgeon kept the party firmly in his grip.

Yousaf, who has held government offices since 2012, has sought to present himself as a candidate who would build on Sturgeon’s record and defend the party’s socially and economically progressive stance. Forbes and former SNP community security secretary Ash Regan have announced themselves as candidates for a move.

Regan, who resigned from government last year and is considered an underdog in the leadership race, began her pitch by saying the SNP had “lost its way”.

In her opening remarks, Forbes, who has been finance secretary since early 2020 but has been on maternity leave since last summer, said she would offer Scotland a fresh start. “More of the same isn’t a manifesto, it’s an acceptance of mediocrity,” she said.

Yousaf hit back at Forbes’ attacks and suggested that she overstated her negotiating skills and abilities as finance minister, saying she had allowed the UK government to lose hundreds of millions of pounds to Scotland during past budget discussions.

He also said he was the only candidate who would challenge Westminster’s decision to veto a Scottish law aimed at making it easier for trans people to legally change their gender.

Douglas Ross, leader of the opposition Scottish Conservatives, echoed Forbes’ suggestion that she would not keep Yousaf as health secretary if she won the leadership election, which ends on March 27.

“They fought like Nats in a sack and the only thing they agreed on was independence and the country re-divided,” Ross tweeted.

Additional reporting from Mure Dickie in Edinburgh SNP leadership candidates clash in heated TV debate

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