By Bill Heaney
The Scotsman is reporting this morning that Kate Forbes has launched her bid to replace Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader, widening the race to include three candidates to become the next First Minister.
The finance secretary, who has been on maternity leave and away from frontline politics since early summer last year, announced her intention to run for the leadership on Monday.
The MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch is considered the front-runner for the job among members and is set to face off against health secretary Humza Yousaf in the battle for Bute House.
However, she is believed to have revealed publicly that she would not have supported Nicola Sturgeon’s controversial gender legislation through parliament.
Angus Robertson, the constitution secretary, is viewed as another potential successor but ruled himself out earlier on Monday.
Dumbarton’s Labour MSP and Labour Party deputy leader, speaking at Labour’s annual conference in Edinburgh, scorned the fact that Mr Yousaf, who she called Scotland’s worst ever Heath Secretary, had put his name forward.
Running are Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan while Angus Robertson has dropped out.
Announcing her candidacy, Ms Forbes said she wanted to “unite the party and the Yes movement”.
She said: “The nation and the Yes movement are at a major crossroads. The choices we make in the next few weeks will have a profound impact on our future and our children’s future
“I cannot sit back and watch our nation thwarted on the road to self-determination. Our small, independent neighbours enjoy wealthier, fairer, and greener societies – and so can we.
“We urgently need to unleash the full talent of the SNP, the wider Yes movement and the country at large. We need to choose strong, competent leadership to deliver independence – the leadership that I can offer.”
The finance secretary added: “I believe we need somebody who can unite the party and the Yes movement. I will reach out and listen so that every member feels valued and able to contribute. That is important within the party, but it is also important if we are to persuade others of the merits of independence.
“We need a leader who is bold and brave and energised, who inspires confidence from the SNP membership and who inspires the confidence of the people of Scotland. From the youngest to the oldest, regardless of where you live or who you are. We need somebody who voters can trust, who has integrity and commitment. I am that leader – and I want to lead the party into better days.”
Ms Forbes was thrust into the limelight following the resignation of the then-finance secretary, Derek Mackay, forced to quit in disgrace in 2020 over text messages he sent to a 16-year-old boy.
Jackie Baillie has blasted ‘delusional’ Humza Yousaf as he launched his leadership campaign in West Dunbartonshire while the local authority faces a £21 million budget deficit following 15 years of under-funding from the SNP.
Labour-controlled West Dunbartonshire Council are set to meet in the coming weeks to set their budget for the next financial year but have a massive financial black hole against a backdrop of less money from the Scottish Government since 2007.
The Cabinet Secretary for Health is standing to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister of Scotland after she revealed last week that she would be stepping down from the role.
He formally launched his campaign in West Dunbartonshire in front of a room of supporters, however no local SNP councillors were present to show their support for the leadership candidate.
Meanwhile, late today (Monday) Jackie Baillie said: “Humza Yousaf was the justice secretary that trashed the justice system, the transport secretary that failed to improve Scotland’s infrastructure and he is the worst health secretary on record. Mr Yousaf’s level of self-confidence – or self-delusion – is almost impressive.
“Even during his appearance at Clydebank Town Hall to kick off his campaign, he failed to answer questions in public from the Council Leader, Martin Rooney about funding for the people of West Dunbartonshire as the Council faces a £21 million budget gap.
“If he cannot face up to this kind of public scrutiny and doesn’t have answers on how he is going to address these SNP-made problems, he is not fit to be First Minister.
“On top of that, thousands of Scots, including many people locally, who have lost loved ones due to Mr Yousaf’s hopeless stewardship of the NHS will be deeply offended by his attempt to use his terrible record as a springboard to the top job.
“Frankly, Humza Yousaf cannot be allowed to continue to fail upwards. Scotland deserves better than this out of touch minister who is badly out of his depth.”