Kate Forbes becomes third candidate in race to be Scotland’s next first minister
Scotland’s Finance Secretary has confirmed she is entering the race to succeed Nicola Sturgeon – with Kate Forbes’ announcement meaning there are now three candidates vying for the top job.
Ms Forbes, who had been widely tipped to stand, announced her decision on Monday, insisting she has the “vision, experience and competence to inspire voters across Scotland”.
Currently on maternity leave after giving birth to her first child last year, her announcement came as another possible successor to Ms Sturgeon, Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson, ruled himself out of the race.
Mr Robertson said having two very young children meant it was “not right for me and my family to take on such a huge commitment”.
I am today launching my bid to become Scotland's next First Minister, with the vision, experience and competence to inspire voters across Scotland. #Forbes4FM pic.twitter.com/1AG4Nyfma6
— Kate Forbes MSP (@_KateForbes) February 20, 2023
Following the shock announcement from Ms Sturgeon last week that she is stepping down after eight years as First Minister, Ms Forbes said both Scotland and the SNP were “at a major crossroads”.
In a video on Twitter, the Finance Secretary said: “The choices that we make in the next few weeks will have a profound impact on our future and on our children’s future.”
Saying someone is needed who can “unite” the SNP – which has been split recently by the controversy over reforms to the gender recognition process – she pledged to “reach out and listen”.
Ms Forbes added: “More than anything we need a leader who is bold, brave and energised, fresh-faced and ready for new challenges.
I am delighted to say I have put myself forward to be @theSNP next leader & Scotland's next First Minister.
Watch my video below to see why I think I'm best placed for the job.
SNP members can also now nominate me on the link below 👇https://t.co/3agL4LSGLz pic.twitter.com/b08PevH1jD
— Humza Yousaf (@HumzaYousaf) February 19, 2023
“Somebody who inspires your confidence as an SNP member and who inspires the confidence of the people of Scotland to vote for a better future
“I am that leader and I want to lead our party into better days with integrity and commitment for the sake of your children and my children.”
Later, in an interview with the PA news agency, Ms Forbes said independence would be at the “front and centre” of the next election – but stressed uniting the party on a method was key.
Ms Forbes is up against Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, and the former community safety minister Ash Regan, who resigned from her ministerial position in protest at the Scottish Government’s gender reform legislation.
Speaking as he officially launched his campaign for the top job in Clydebank on Monday, Mr Yousaf said uniting the party and securing Scottish independence would be his main priorities.
He said he was confident he could win the leadership contest, adding that his extensive experience in government meant he was best placed to succeed Ms Sturgeon.
He told the PA news agency: “I think I can win the contest because the top job requires experience, and I’ve got experience, I’ve been in government for over 10 years.
“I’ve had some of the toughest jobs, whether that’s transport, justice or steering the NHS through its recovery.”
He also hit out at critics who have criticised his leadership bid following his handling of the NHS.
I will not support an accelerated net zero path which sees us turn off the North Sea taps, throw 10s of 1000s of oil workers out of jobs, hollow out NE & H&I communities whist still using and importing hydrocarbons. I will stand up for our oil workers and their communities.
— Ash Regan MSP (@AshtenRegan) February 20, 2023
He said: “I think it’s incredible that opponents are talking about me and I think it tells you a lot.
“They’ve been talking ever since I decided to launch my campaign.
“I think they’re scared at the prospect of me being first minister.”
Ms Forbes, meanwhile, has been seen as a potential successor to the First Minister since she was thrust into the limelight when she had to deliver the Scottish budget at short notice in 2020 after her predecessor, Derek Mackay, resigned in disgrace.
But the MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, who is a Free Church of Scotland member, is at odds with others in the party – and current policy – on some social issues, including the hotly-debated gender reforms blocked by the UK Government.
Such stances could also make it difficult for the Greens, who are part of the Scottish Government after the party signed a co-operation agreement with the SNP, to work with Ms Forbes.
Candidates have until Friday to secure 100 nominations from at least 20 local branches to secure their place on the ballot, with the new SNP leader being announced on March 27.
SNP depute leader Keith Brown and Deputy First Minister John Swinney have ruled themselves out of the race, as have Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s Westminster leader, Europe minister Neil Gray and the environment minister, Mairi McAllan.
Meanwhile, Ms Regan indicated that she would take a different tack to the current SNP leadership on the issue of North Sea oil.
She posted a tweet saying: “I will not support an accelerated net-zero path which sees us turn off the North Sea taps, throw 10s of 1000s of oil workers out of jobs, hollow out NE & H&I communities whist still using and importing hydrocarbons.
“I will stand up for our oil workers and their communities.”