Kate Forbes: I’m not afraid to govern Scotland without the Greens

Kate Forbes, seen on the campaign trail on Friday, says she has ‘always held out the hand of partnership to the Greens’ - Jane Barlow/PA
Kate Forbes, seen on the campaign trail on Friday, says she has ‘always held out the hand of partnership to the Greens’ - Jane Barlow/PA

Kate Forbes has said she has no fear of governing without the Greens and warned that Scotland will be mired in an “endless loop” of fighting about independence unless she becomes First Minister.

Ahead of the SNP leadership contest result at 2pm on Monday, the finance minister said she was the only one of the three candidates to succeed Nicola Sturgeon who could “reach across the political divide and convince No voters to think again”.

Humza Yousaf, the bookmakers’ favourite, also issued an 11th-hour plea for votes, saying he was the only candidate committed to continuing the party’s power-sharing deal with the Scottish Greens.

Mr Yousaf, the Scottish health secretary, pledged to “protect our pro-independence majority” and said he could “build the team needed to deliver independence for Scotland”.

In a video posted on social media and directed at SNP members yet to vote in the contest, Ms Forbes said: “I need your vote, Scotland needs your vote. Change happens only when we vote for it. Independence happens only if we win.

“And it is clear that in this election, I am the only candidate who can deliver that ultimate prize for our nation. Only I can reach across the political divide and convince No voters to think again.

“Every poll in the campaign tells you that, and without achieving that conversion of No voters, Scotland is stuck in an endless constitutional loop. So if you want to win, it is up to you to make it happen.”

The Scottish Greens’ party council will meet after the result has been announced to advise its MSPs whether they should stay in government and who they should vote for to be First Minister on Tuesday.

Ms Forbes told the Scottish Mail on Sunday she had “no fear” of running a minority government after the Greens threatened to walk away from the coalition if she refused to accept their policy agenda.

The 32-year-old said: “I have always held out the hand of partnership to the Greens, and it’s for them to decide whether or not they can accept that.”

The finance secretary said she was “relaxed” about the prospect of them leaving government after clashes over her opposition to Ms Sturgeon’s self-ID gender reforms.

Ms Forbes also opposes other parts of the Bute House Agreement, the deal Ms Sturgeon reached with the Greens, including banning fishing in a series of new Highly Protected Marine Areas around Scotland.

In a dig at Ms Sturgeon and the Greens, she said the SNP should start focusing on people’s priorities and argued that it was more important to govern well than “dance to the tune played by another party”.

Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, the two Greens in Ms Sturgeon’s government, used their speeches to the party’s conference in Clydebank on Saturday to give their clearest signal yet that they would not work with Ms Forbes.

In a thinly-veiled attack on the devout Christian’s opposition to gay marriage, Mr Harvie said “a sincere commitment to progressive values cannot be an optional extra in a choice of First Minister” but was a “necessity”.

He told BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show he planned to speak to the victor on Monday afternoon before reporting back to his colleagues.

The declaration of the winner of the SNP leadership contest, at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield stadium, follows a bitter five-and-a-half week campaign prompted by Ms Sturgeon’s sudden resignation announcement.

The SNP hierarchy has faced allegations of dirty tricks to help Mr Yousaf, the Sturgeon continuity candidate, amid widespread doubts over his competence.

Opinion polls have indicated that Mr Yousaf is marginally more popular with SNP voters, but the general public – which prefers Ms Forbes – thinks he has performed poorly at running Scotland’s crisis-hit NHS.

The contest will be decided using a single transferable vote system, meaning members number the three candidates in order of preference. If no one gets at least 50 per cent support in the first round, the second preferences of those who backed the least popular candidate will be reallocated to the other two.

That would be expected to favour Ms Forbes because supporters of Ash Regan, the outsider in the contest, are thought to be more likely to favour the finance secretary. Ms Regan has also argued that the SNP requires reform rather than continuity.

Ms Sturgeon is expected to tender her resignation to the King on Tuesday, and the Scottish Parliament will vote for a new First Minister. They will be sworn in at the Court of Session the following day, when Cabinet appointments are also expected.