Voting opens in SNP leadership battle as Kate Forbes, Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan face latest ‘circular firing squad’ TV debate tonight
- Voting opens in SNP leadership contest to choose Nicola Sturgeon’s successor
- Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan all hoping to be new first minister
Voting is opening today in the contest to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader and Scotland’s first minister.
Ballot papers are being sent out to tens of thousands of SNP members for them to choose between rivals Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan.
Members will have two weeks to make their choice – after voting opens at noon – with the ballot closing on 27 March.
The SNP’s new leader and Ms Sturgeon’s successor will then be announced shortly after.
The opening of the membership ballot comes ahead of tonight’s latest live TV debate between the leadership rivals.
The third televised showdown between Mr Yousaf, Ms Forbes and Ms Regan, being held in Edinburgh, will be broadcast on Sky News from 7pm.
Ballot papers are being sent out to tens of thousands of SNP members for them to choose between rivals Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan
Members will have two weeks to make their choice for Nicola Sturgeon’s successor – after voting opens at noon – with the ballot closing on 27 March
The previous two debates have been marked by bitter clashes between the contenders, which has drawn comparisons to a ‘circular firing squad’.
Mr Yousaf has seen his ministerial record panned by Ms Forbes, who has also suggested he should be sacked from his role as Health Secretary over Scotland’s NHS crisis.
But Mr Yousaf has sniped back by highlighting the socially conservative views of Ms Forbes – a member of the evangelical Free Church of Scotland – and suggested her election as leader would see the SNP ‘lurching to the right’.
Meanwhile Ms Regan, widely viewed as the outsider in the contest, has delivered a withering verdict on Ms Sturgeon’s long spell in charge.
She has told SNP members the party has ‘lost its way’ and admitted there had been ‘no progress’ on Scottish independence in recent years.
Ms Regan has also continued her criticism of Ms Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell, who is the SNP’s chief executive.
‘Effectively he’s running the contest to replace his wife,’ Ms Regan has claimed.
Some polls have put Ms Forbes ahead amongst the Scottish public, but Mr Yousaf – a close ally of Ms Sturgeon – has attracted the support of senior figures in the SNP.
The single transferable voting system being used means second preferences could be key in determining the next leader.
Party members will be asked to rank the three candidates in order of preference.
If no single candidate secures more than 50 per cent of votes on first preferences, the person in third place will be eliminated.
Their second preference votes will then be distributed amongst the two remaining candidates in order to find the winner.
The company Mi Voice – which runs all internal SNP elections – will be sending out emails to party members when voting opens at noon.
Paper ballots have also been sent out to those members who have requested them, with those also due to arrive today.
An SNP spokesperson said: ‘SNP members will receive their ballots via email today and have until the morning of March 27 to cast their votes – the day the next leader will be announced.
‘The ballot is being operated by an independent third party who will ensure the process is free, fair, and well-run.’
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