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Ian Blackford declares it ‘has to be Humza’ for Scotland’s next first minister

Former SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has endorsed Humza Yousaf in the race to be Scotland’s next first minister.

There are three candidates running to take over from Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader and Scottish first minister – with Mr Yousaf, the Scottish Health Secretary up against Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and former community safety minister Ash Regan.

But Mr Blackford declared: “In this election, it has to be Humza.”

Scottish National Party leadership election
Scottish National Party leadership candidate Humza Yousaf (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP, who stepped down as SNP Westminster leader in December, said Mr Yousaf was the man who brings the party together amid divisions over matters such as gender recognition reforms and the strategy for independence.

Mr Blackford said: “We need a figure who will unite both the SNP and the Yes movement.

“As a nation, we require a first minister who will ensure that we deliver in Government and lead us forward to  guarantee Scotland’s voice is heard in an independence referendum.  Humza is that leader.”

Speaking about Mr Yousaf, the MP continued: “He has demonstrated his ability to lead in political office across a host of roles within the Scottish Government.

“Importantly for me, we need to get our economy moving in the face of this Tory cost-of-living crisis and create the sustainability, economic growth and better paid jobs that will help Scotland thrive.

“I’m looking forward to working with Humza to make sure that we deliver for Scotland and send a message that this is a country where people want to do business.”

A number of leading figures within the SNP have already backed Mr Yousaf, including Scottish Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison, Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville and SNP Westminster deputy leader Mhairi Black.

However a Panelbase poll for the Sunday Times put Ms Forbes in the lead in the race to be the next first minister, with 23% of those questioned saying they wanted her to take the top job, ahead of  15% for Mr Yousaf and 7%  for Ms Regan.