LEADERSHIP: Kate Forbes is favourite SNP contender with public

In a setback for all three candidates, a quarter of voters thought none of them would make the best first minister

UPDATED at 11:10, 9 MAR 2023

Kate Forbes (centre) is leading the race for Bute House ahead of Ash Regan and Humza Yousaf
Kate Forbes is leading the race for Bute House among the public – but not within the party, where straight-talking Ash Regan has impressed the previously uncommitted.

By Lucy Ashton

Kate Forbes has emerged as the favourite SNP leadership candidate among the voting public ahead of the second televised debate on Thursday.

The finance secretary is eight points ahead of Humza Yousaf, who was butchered at the hands of Forbes in the TV debate [there’s another one tonight on Channel 4] but, according to the Scottish Daily Express,  the pair are almost tied among SNP voters as the contest looks set to go down to the wire.

Polling by Ipsos for Channel 4 News of the Scottish public including SNP voters between March 6 and 7, shows almost one in three of the public (32 per cent) placed Ms Forbes as the best First Minister of the three prospective candidates.

Of those polled, 24 per cent picked Mr Yousaf as the best First Minister with just eight per cent backing Ash Regan.

The data also showed younger voters were more likely to lean towards Mr Yousaf while over 55s went for Ms Forbes.

Amongst SNP voters from the last Scottish Parliament election, one in three (33 per cent) said Mr Yousaf would make the best First Minister, while another 32 per cent said the same of Ms Forbes.

Ratings overall for all three candidates remained lukewarm, with one in four stating that none of the prospective candidates would make the best First Minister. The polling comes after a savage first televised debate on Tuesday as all three went head-to-head on STV.

Ms Forbes launched an all out attack on Mr Yousaf’s ministerial record and delivered the line of the night when she said he would be welcome in her government but “maybe not in health”.

Mr Yousaf has emerged as the party establishment’s favoured candidate and is seen as a continuation of Nicola Sturgeon’s government.

He’s the continuity or “more of the same” Hapless Humza or Useless Yousaf that Kate Forbes whose performance as Health Secretary was trashed by Kate Forbes.

Ms Regan, pictured left,  remains an outsider and has appealed to the fringes of the nationalist movement to try and build support. She has also offered a dramatic change in direction.

All three will take part in Thursday’s broadcast by Channel 4 News, ‘Scotland’s Next Leader’ at 7pm with the arguments to be broadcast across the entire UK.

Presented by Krishnan Guru-Murthy, the 30-minute head-to-head will involve set topics and challenges between the three leaders around major policy objectives, from the NHS to the cost of living, to independence and Scotland’s economy, as well as issues of gender and sexual identity and religious freedoms.

Channel 4’s Scotland Correspondent Ciaran Jenkins will also be at the helm to bring further insight from today’s polling of Scottish voters.

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