“Union Safe in Kate Forbes’ Hands! There are barely two weeks to go before the competition to replace Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the SNP and Scotland’s First Minister is decided, but it’s already quite clear who the winner will be. Barring nuclear war or an act of God, Kate Forbes will emerge as the victor.
Humza Yousaf, the SNP establishment candidate who is currently narrowly ahead in the most recent poll of the SNP membership, has come across as a bit of an intellectual lightweight who has promoted policies which he cannot realistically hope to deliver. Examples are his stubborn adherence to the GRR Bill and his pledge to repeal Section 35 of the Scotland Act. Neither will be allowed by Westminster.
Ash Regan has thrown her weight behind using a future election as a “de facto referendum”, saying that pro-independence parties winning over 50% of the vote would be “a clear instruction that Scotland wishes to be an independent nation”. This is a harder position on independence than either of the other candidates and might be aimed at party members impatient for action on the constitutional question. She also appears to have the support of former First Minister Alex Salmond, which may or may not be helpful.
Kate Forbes’ campaign ran into a bit of turbulence early on when she voice her personal opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion, amongst other things, but her honest answers to her questioners has gained her many supporters in the wider SNP membership. She is also the brightest of the three and the one opposition parties would least like to see as First Minister. Whilst she has outlined a plan to use the next Westminster election to win a mandate to demand within three months the powers to hold a referendum if the SNP win a majority of Scottish seats, this is merely fodder for the membership and highly unlikely to be delivered.
The whole SNP membership gets a vote under the STV proportional representation system and this is how I think it will pan out. Ash Regan will get the fewest first preference votes in the initial round and will drop out. The bulk of her second preference votes will go to Kate Forbes and she will beat Humza Yousaf by a whisker. He, in any case, would only be keeping the seat warm for the bigger fish that are already circling.
I predict wrinkly smiles in the SNP Old Guard and at party headquarters when Forbes wins, and also amongst the opposition parties. Plus, of course, the SNP’s coalition partners the Greens, who will leave government in a huff. No tears will be shed on their departure.”
Lt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available now