Nicola Sturgeon urges calm in SNP leadership battle as tensions rise over succession

Nicola Sturgeon has appealed for calm in the increasingly tense race to succeed Humza Yousaf as SNP leader.

The former First Minister called for civility as her former deputy John Swinney and ex finance chief Kate Forbes weighed up bids.

Her intervention came amid reports the pair held secret talks about a deal which would install Swinney in the job.

Swinney and Forbes have not declared ahead of nominations closing on Monday, but supporters have noised up the rival camps.

Ivan McKee, a top supporter of Forbes, likened Swinney to Yousaf’s failed leadership.

Sources have also told the Record Forbes could struggle to win the First Minister vote at Holyrood even if she becomes SNP leader.

Sturgeon, who led the SNP for nearly a decade, said: "No candidates have declared for the leadership yet, as far as I know, unless you are about to tell me otherwise.

“So I will wait to see who emerges, who the candidates are, and then like all SNP members I will make up my own mind. I’m not going to try to tell other members how to vote.

“I hope the contest is positive. I hope it is forward looking and I hope it focuses on the things that the SNP needs to do to continue its very strong election-winning streak.

Sturgeon is close to Swinney, and would be tipped to back him, but she said of Forbes:

“Kate was a member of my cabinet. I appointed her to government, so she is undoubtedly a woman of considerable talent, but as far as I aware she hasn’t declared her candidacy.”

She added: “What I would say to my party is keep the contest positive, keep it civilised, keep it very much focused on the future.”

She said of Yousaf’s decision to quit over his botched decision to axe the Greens from Government:

"Humza set out the reasons for his resignation, clearly he thought that was the right decision. I thought his speech on Monday was one he delivered with great dignity and grace.

"I think he did a good job as First Minister. I’m really proud of him. He put the party and the country first.”

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