SNP leadership contest: Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan must seek to appeal to the public at large, not just SNP members – Angus Robertson
Leadership elections don’t come along that often in the Scottish National Party.
During her record-breaking time as Scotland’s longest-serving First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon faced five UK Prime Ministers and won eight back-to-back elections. With nominations having closed, it's clear her successor will be a next-generation SNP leader and First Minister.
During the next weeks, SNP members will hear from the candidates Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan about how they want to lead the Scottish Government and Scotland’s largest party. Every SNP member has an equal say and will be able to vote for who will become the party leader and First Minister.
Members who have a registered email in the membership database will be sent an electronic ballot. Those without an email address will be sent a postal ballot. Ballots will open at noon on March 13 and will close at noon on March 27, after which the winner will be announced. Before then, there will be town-hall meetings, hustings and even TV debate(s). So far eight hustings have been announced in Cumbernauld, Glenrothes, Inverness, Dumfries, Johnstone, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, plus an online event for those members who can’t make the others.
Of course, the debate between the candidates doesn’t take place in a vacuum. All three were elected to Holyrood on the 2021 SNP Scottish Parliament election manifesto and the policy platform agreed by SNP annual conference. Whoever wins will work as part of a team with SNP ministers, MSPs, MPs, councillors and members as well as the Scottish Greens, with whom there is a government agreement unanimously backed by the party's NEC and members in a consultative ballot.
Members attending the hustings will be interested in the priorities, policies and values of all three candidates. They will want to know how they will build on the success of Nicola Sturgeon as a progressive leader and deliver on the people’s priorities in the Scottish Parliament, at Westminster and in council chambers. By having done so over the last 16 years in government, the SNP has become one of the most successful political parties in Europe. It has been trusted by the electorate.
All SNP members will want to know how the candidates will take forward the independence agenda, build support and secure a democratic referendum for the people to have their say. Time is of the essence to step up the campaign and make the case, while the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems all remain committed to damaging Brexit.
Leadership elections understandably focus on the party membership, the selectorate which will choose the winner. However a leadership contest is also watched by the wider electorate, including supporters, those who are still open to persuasion, and those who are not. As we all know, first impressions count. The chance to appeal to the widest electorate is a huge opportunity, and one the candidates must embrace.
The UK is in a state of relative economic decline. The cost-of-living crisis is a disaster and the economic harm of Brexit is there for everyone to see, including on our empty supermarket shelves. All of the UK parties have agreed to continue this self-harm. It doesn’t need to be this way. Scotland has a far better option. That is why the SNP leadership election matters to everyone in Scotland.