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by Louise Wilson
07 March 2023
SNP leadership candidates clash in first TV debate

SNP leadership candidates clash in first TV debate

A Kate Forbes government would not retain Humza Yousaf as health secretary, the SNP candidate said during the first televised leadership debate.

Forbes criticised Yousaf's record in government throughout the debate, saying "trains were never on time" when he was transport minister and police were "stretched to breaking point" when he was in justice.

And when asked if he would have a place in her government if she became First Minister, she said: "There is room for Humza Yousaf, maybe not in health."

Yousaf defended his record, insisting the roles he had were the "three toughest jobs in government". He claimed the Queensferry Crossing, avoiding NHS strikes and imrpoved domestic abuse protections as his successes.

On a future Cabinet, Yousaf praised the talents of his leadership rivals but refused to say what roles they would have if he became First Minister.

And Ash Regan said she would look to "put the absolute best people in the right roles" but would not say whether that included Forbes or Yousaf.

The three contenders to become the SNP's next leader clashed during STV's programme on Tuesday evening.

Each were highly critical of the others' positions throughout the debate, particularly when they were asked to cross-examine one another.

Regan questioned her rivals' approach to obtaining Scottish independence, suggesting neither had a plan. She said she was the only person with a "credible" plan.

Yousaf criticised both Forbes and Regan over their stance on challenging the UK government's  blocking on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

He said he was the only candidate standing up to Westminster on this legislation, which was a matter of "principle" for devolution.

And Forbes insisted the only route to Scottish independence was to convince No voters by having a strong economic plan. She said she would create "prosperity with a purpose" which would demonstrate independence would create a "fairer, wealthier and greener" Scotland.

Asked about the Bute House Agreement with the Greens, Forbes said she would be willing to retain the Green ministers if they could get on board with her economic plans.

Yousaf pledged to continue the deal. He warned against ending the pro-independence majority government.

Regan said she would be to open to discussions with the Greens about continuing the agreement.

She also said she had reached out to leaders of all the other pro-independence parties, who had responded with "excitement and support" for her ideas.

But Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie tweeted that no such conversation had taken place between the SNP and Greens, saying the claim was "simply, plainly false".

Regan's campaign later clarified she had called the Greens but there has been "no answer, no return call".

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