SNP to announce new leader today

·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The Scottish National party is preparing to announce later on Monday which candidate has won the bitterly contested battle to be Scotland’s next first minister.

With voting now closed, Humza Yousaf, the frontrunner, said he wanted to greatly increase taxes on the rich, and introduce a windfall tax on energy firms and on landowners to fund more generous anti-poverty measures.

Yousaf said he would use Holyrood’s income tax and property taxation powers to increase Scotland’s £25 a week child payment benefit, given to the poorest families, as he tried to attract votes from remaining undecided SNP members.

“I think those that are the wealthiest, those who earn the most, should absolutely pay the most in society, particularly for our public services,” he told the Daily Record.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Greens warned that Sturgeon’s successor may need to do deals with unionist parties if the SNP’s power-sharing deal with the Greens at Holyrood collapses.

In a barely concealed challenge to Kate Forbes, the centre-right candidate vying to succeed Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Greens said: “Progressive politics and climate justice … must be at the heart of any vision for Scotland that we will support.”

Related: From the NHS to independence, what’s in the next SNP leader’s in-tray?

Forbes, who mounted a combative campaign, has raised substantial doubts about the future of an SNP-Green agreement signed by Sturgeon in 2021. She has criticised measures on gender recognition, the climate crisis, recycling and limiting road-building. Another candidate, Ash Regan, has taken a similar position to Forbes in many areas.

Lorna Slater, the Scottish Greens’ co-leader, echoed her warnings on Saturday about the risks a Forbes premiership posed to the agreement and went further, stating that the Greens were considering what they would do if they joined the opposition ranks.

“We are, first and foremost, true to ourselves and committed to delivering change,” Slater said, in a statement to mark the close of the SNP contest. “We will put ourselves in the place where we can best achieve this. If that is in opposition to an SNP government that has lost its way and abandoned its commitments to cooperation, equality and environmental progress then so be it.”

The six-week campaign, the SNP’s first leadership contest for nearly 20 years, was triggered by Sturgeon’s shock decision in February to quit after more than eight years as party leader and first minister.

Yousaf, who has closely aligned himself to Sturgeon’s policies, is widely tipped as the favourite and is the only candidate to firmly commit to upholding the Bute House power-sharing agreement brokered with the Greens.

The first cooperation deal signed by the SNP since taking power in 2007 gave ministerial seats to Slater and to her co-leader Patrick Harvie, and cemented a pro-independence majority at the Scottish parliament.

Without it, the SNP would be one vote short of controlling Holyrood. If the Greens refuse to do deals, the next first minister would have to negotiate with the anti-independence Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat parties to build majorities for budgets and policies.

Soon after the result is announced, the new SNP leader is expected to call Harvie and Slater. The Greens will then convene a party council meeting on Monday to confirm what their next steps will be.

On Tuesday, the new SNP leader must win a vote at Holyrood to become Scotland’s first minister-elect. The king then confirms the leader’s appointment by letter, before the leader is sworn in by senior Scottish judges in Edinburgh on Wednesday morning.

Forbes has said she remains open to working with the Greens but said on Sunday she was relaxed about leading a minority SNP government. “It matters more to govern well, even as a minority, than it is to dance to the tune played by another party,” she told the Mail on Sunday.

Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, said none of the candidates would give Scotland the change and vision it needed. “Everyone agrees that the same old mediocrity, continuity and incompetence won’t cut it – but no one in this dire race has shown they’re up to the job,” he said.