Forbes, Regan and Yousaf confirmed as SNP leadership candidates
Kate Forbes, Ash Regan and Humza Yousaf have all advanced to the membership vote in the SNP leadership contest after securing enough nominations.
Candidates had to secure the backing of at least 100 members from a minimum of 20 local branches by noon on Friday.
All three of the declared candidates did so, ending the possibility of a surprise entrant into the contest.
A spokesman for the SNP said: “With the 12pm deadline now past, we can confirm that all three declared candidates for the leadership of the SNP – Kate Forbes, Ash Regan and Humza Yousaf – have passed the threshold of nominations by at least 100 SNP members drawn from at least 20 SNP branches.”
The candidates will now hit the campaign trail to persuade members they can lead the party – and the country as first minister.
The ballot will open at noon on March 13, closing two weeks later at the same time on March 27.
The announcement comes at the end of the first full week of campaigning for the candidates following Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to resign.
Speaking after nominations closed, Mr Yousaf said he is “honoured” to have cleared the threshold.
“The grassroots of the SNP are trusting me to drive forward our independence movement at this important juncture in our party and nation’s history. I will not let you down,” he said.
“In the coming days and weeks I will set out more about my plans as your SNP first minister, my ambition for driving forward Scotland’s economy, how we do more to tackle the Tory cost-of- living crisis, and how we use all the talents of the party to win independence.”
Mr Yousaf said he is the only candidate who can “protect our pro-independence majority Government in Holyrood”, after reports emerged that the Scottish Greens may rip up their powersharing agreement with the SNP if either Ms Forbes or Ms Regan are elected and abandon gender reforms.
The leadership campaign has so far focused mainly on the views of the candidates on social issues, with Scottish Finance Secretary Ms Forbes coming under pressure to quit the race after saying she would not have voted in favour of equal marriage had she been in Holyrood in 2014, nor would she have voted for the Scottish Government’s gender reforms in December. She was on maternity leave at the time.
In an attempt to re-focus her campaign, Ms Forbes said on Thursday that she had been “burdened” by the hurt her comments had caused.
In the hours before the close of nominations, former Scottish Government minister Ms Regan officially launched her campaign, pitching herself as the unity candidate who would run a competent government while reaching out to the grassroots of the independence movement.
She also hit out at the current leadership of the SNP, saying Peter Murrell’s ultimate control over the contest to replace his wife Ms Sturgeon is a “conflict of interest”, and adding that the party has “lost our way” in recent years.
In the early days of his campaign, Scottish Health Secretary Mr Yousaf has proven to be the popular choice among elected members, with senior MSPs such as Shirley-Anne Somerville, Jenny Gilruth, Maree Todd and Neil Gray – who ruled out his own bid for the top job – pledging their support.
Ms Forbes had gained endorsements from ministers Tom Arthur and Clare Haughey, among others, before her comments prompted a rethink.
However, she retains the support of business minister Ivan McKee and senior SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing.
Ms Regan’s public support among senior party figures has thus far been limited to MP and fellow SNP rebel Joanna Cherry, who introduced her at her North Queensferry campaign launch.