The Dallas Morning News

Fight to replace leader of the Scottish National Party heated


LONDON — The Scottish National Party is finding Nicola Sturgeon a hard act to follow.

Scotland’s governing party is holding an acrimoniou­s contest to replace Sturgeon, a leader who came to dominate Scottish politics, but hit an impasse in her fight for independen­ce from the United Kingdom, and divided the party with a transgende­r rights law.

Sturgeon, 52, announced her resignatio­n in February after eight years as party leader and first minster of Scotland’s semi-autonomous government.

Three members of the Scottish parliament are running to replace her: Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, 32; Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, 37; and lawmaker Ash Regan, 49. The winner of a vote by SNP members will be announced March 27.

The campaign has opened fissures within the party over political strategy, social issues and Sturgeon’s legacy.

Critics say a clique around the former first minister wields too much power in the SNP. Those rivals scored a victory when party chief executive Peter Murrell — Sturgeon’s husband — resigned Saturday over a kerfuffle about the party’s declining membership.

Sturgeon’s resignatio­n has unleashed a battle for the direction of the SNP, which holds 64 of the 129 seats in the Scottish parliament.

In bad-tempered television debates, Regan and Forbes have attacked Yousaf — a Sturgeon ally — as a continuity candidate in a party that badly needs change.

The testy race also reflects frustratio­ns within a party that, after 16 years in power in Edinburgh, has yet to achieve its main ambition: independen­ce.

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