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Backlash as SNP block media from leadership hustings

Politicians and journalists have hit out at the SNP after the party decided to keep the media out of hustings that will determine its new leader and the next first minister of Scotland.

The three candidates will face questions from SNP members at events around the country before casting their votes.

But a party spokesman confirmed to Sky News earlier that the media will not be allowed to attend.

Now, the candidates themselves have criticised the decision, with Kate Forbes saying she believed in "democracy and transparency" and "none of the candidates have anything to hide".

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Posting on Twitter, the finance secretary added: "In fact [having the media present] would give us a platform to set a positive example for how to have respectful, informed and varied debate."

Fellow candidate, health secretary Humza Yousaf, said he had "no problem with the media seeing any of the hustings", while the third runner in the race, Ash Regan said the trio had "a duty to be held to scrutiny".

The MSP added: "I firmly believe we should allow access and ask that the media carry the proceedings fairly and fully, making them available to all."

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Other parties have also had their say, with Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross saying the SNP was "once again hiding from proper scrutiny".

He added: "The public deserve to hear the priorities of candidates standing to be the next first minister of Scotland."

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar tweeted: "Why don't they want the public to hear from 'the best talents in the SNP'? Embarrassing."

And Labour's shadow Scotland secretary Ian Murray wrote to the party's chief executive, Peter Murrell, demanding a change in policy.

"It is completely unacceptable that such an important contest can be conducted in secrecy, with the people of Scotland given no say whatsoever in choosing their next leader," he wrote.

"The next first minister of Scotland, whoever it may be, should not be chosen behind closed doors, too scared to face the scrutiny of the public. The people of Scotland deserve better."

After the backlash, an SNP National Executive Committee spokesperson said: "We are in discussion with media outlets making a request for access to our members hustings event in Cumbernauld, and we're already looking at ways to make content available to our wider membership for the remainder of this series of events."

The last Conservative leadership contest led to no hustings after other candidates dropped out of the race, leaving Rishi Sunak the final choice.

However, their last leadership contest over the summer of 2022 that led to Liz Truss becoming PM saw multiple hustings around the country with the press attending.

Labour's last contest, which saw Sir Keir Starmer take the helm, also had multiple hustings ahead of the final vote.