Eastern Eye (UK)

Scotland leadership ballot begins



VOTING to elect a new Scottish leader after Nicola Sturgeon’s surprise resignatio­n opened on Monday (13), with all three candidates pledging to reinvigora­te her splutterin­g push to win independen­ce for the country.

Sturgeon’s independen­ce drive ran into trouble after the UK government blocked her plans to hold a fresh referendum on the issue.

This is the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) first full leadership battle since 2004, with contenders including Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan.

Sturgeon, who quit last month as both SNP leader and Scottish first minister, had also became embroiled in controvers­y over her handling of a transgende­r rights row.

Rising star and current finance minister Forbes, 32, sparked controvers­y after she said she would have voted against same-sex marriage had she been a member of the Scottish parliament when the reform was passed in 2014.

Forbes is a member of the Free Church of Scotland, Scotland’s second largest denominati­on, which opposes same-sex marriage and abortion.

Health minister Yousaf, 37, has won the backing of Sturgeon allies. He is the first non-white and Muslim cabinet member of the Scottish government.

The third candidate is Regan, a 38-year-old former minister, who has pledged to restore unity to the party.

In a debate last Thursday (9), Yousaf questioned whether Forbes’ personal conviction­s put other people’s rights at risk. People want a first minister who does “not believe they are morally inferior” and who would “protect and advance” their rights, he said. “I’m the only candidate that has unequivoca­lly said they will protect everybody,” he added.

Forbes has defended her views as a matter of personal conscience, but they have left her out of tune with the SNP’s centre-left base. Despite this, an Ipsos poll of all voters last week put her ahead on 32 per cent, with Yousaf on 24 per cent and Regan on eight per cent.

However, Yousaf is widely seen as the preferred candidate for SNP voters.

In last week’s debate, Forbes questioned whether he had the mettle to take on the UK government over its refusal to grant permission for another independen­ce referendum. She touted herself as the only candidate to have gone head-tohead with British prime minister Rishi Sunak “and won”.

Regan, meanwhile, claimed she alone had a credible plan for independen­ce and panned her rivals’ approach as “wishy washy”.

“This is the time for brave hearts, not faint hearts,” she said.

The new leader will be announced

on March 27.

 ?? ?? TOP JOB HOPEFULS: (From left) Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan
TOP JOB HOPEFULS: (From left) Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom