Who’s who in the SNP leadership race?

“Nominations closed on Friday for the election of a new leader for the SNP following the resignation of Nicola Sturgeon. Whoever succeeds her will become leader of the party and also First Minister of Scotland. Three candidates have put themselves forward; Humza Yousaf, the Cabinet Secretary for Health; Kate Forbes, Finance Secretary; and Ash Denham, former Minister for Community Safety.

Yousaf is the “continuity candidate” and is backed by Sturgeon and the established SNP hierarchy. Yet he has failed to impress or deliver in the Ministerial roles he has held to date. I suspect he is only the establishment choice because Angus Robertson, who was expected to be a shoo-in for the leadership, has chosen not to stand.

Kate Forbes’ bid has become embroiled in matters of faith; she is a member of the evangelist Free Church of Scotland and has spoken of her personal opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion, and children born outside marriage. However, she is the brightest of the three, an intelligent and articulate woman who has broad appeal to the socially conservative wing of her party, and perhaps those of other political parties too. But she is only 32.

Ash Denham has the lowest profile of the three but resigned her Ministerial post over her objection to the SNP’s flagship Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which passed through the Scottish Parliament but has now been blocked by Westminster. She has also irritated the SNP’s partners in coalition the Greens with her call to open up exploitation of Scotland’s dormant oil and gas fields.

At the start of the contest it was thought that Yousaf would be a clear winner, but now I’m not so sure. In the most recent polls Forbes has the support of the broader SNP membership, all of whom have a vote, which will upset the Sturgeon applecart. Predictably, the debate is in danger of descending into an unedifying slanging match which do none any favours.

With the result due in 4 weeks we’re in for an interesting time in the run up to the announcement.”

Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available now

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