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by Kirsteen Paterson
09 March 2023
Kate Forbes is public's choice for first minister, poll reveals

Kate Forbes speaks to SNP members at a hustings in Dumfries

Kate Forbes is public's choice for first minister, poll reveals

New polling reveals a split between the general public and SNP voters on who should be Scotland's next first minister.

Kate Forbes, Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan are in the running to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader and the next first minister of Scotland.

Exclusive polling from Channel 4 News and Ipsos shows Forbes has taken an eight-point lead amongst the public.

Almost one in three people (32 per cent) named her as the best FM. Around one quarter (24 per cent) said Yousaf was their choice, while fewer than one in ten (eight per cent) selected Regan.

However, amongst those who voted SNP at the last Scottish Parliament election, Yousaf, who has secured the largest share of support from SNP MPs and MSPs, was out in front by a fraction. One third (33 per cent) of this group said Yousaf would make the best FM, with Forbes on 32 per cent. 

However, one in four of all people polled stated that none of the prospective candidates would make the best FM.

The polling, which included more than 1500 adults, 580 of whom voted SNP in 2021, was conducted on 6-7 March and comes ahead of the Channel 4 News leadership debate tonight. Hosted by Krishnan Guru-Murthy, the broadcast will be go out across the UK at 7pm.

Voting opens at noon on 13 March and runs until midday on 27 March, with the result to be announced the same day.

Senior SNP figures including MSPs Shona Robison and Angus Robertson have come out in favour of Yousaf, while Regan has the backing of Joanna Cherry MP and Forbes supporters including MSPs Fergus Ewing and Jim Fairlie.

At FMQs today, Douglas Ross pressed Sturgeon for her take on criticism made by Forbes of Yousaf's record in government. In an STV hustings clash, she said "trains were never on time" when he was transport minister and police were "stretched to breaking point" when he was in charge of justice.

Commenting on the poll, Fairlie said: "The recent polling shows that only Kate can win the public vote. The wider electorate views Kate as a trusted and talented leader with a track record of delivery. It is no wonder that the opposition party leaders are running scared – which we saw at First Minister’s Questions.

"It is the SNP membership who will elect a new party leader – and they will want to elect an election-winner. Kate will not take a single vote for granted, and she will continue to make the case that she is the strongest candidate to deliver independence for Scotland."

Meanwhile, Yousaf said: " Humza Yousaf: "This poll shows the momentum is firmly behind my positive campaign, built on the SNP's platform of progressive values. Having started the leadership race behind, it's great to see that more and more members of our SNP family are putting their trust in me as the voters' choice.

"Our party needs a leader who will stand up to grubby Westminster power grabs and help to grow support in our independence movement to sustained majority levels. I am that leader.

"Today's poll is another boost to my message of positivity, unity and strength. I'm the only candidate who has seen support and momentum grow each day as we approach ballots opening on Monday, where I hope SNP members will make me their first choice for first minister."

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