SNP at war as leadership rivals clash on live TV AGAIN with Humza Yousaf suggesting he could refuse to serve under social conservative Kate Forbes if she ditches Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘progressive’ agenda
- SNP rivals Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes continue their bitter war-of-words
- Second TV debate in party’s leadership contest sees more tense exchanges
SNP leadership rivals Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes last night continued their increasingly bitter war-of-words in a second live TV debate.
Both Mr Yousaf, the Scottish Health Secretary, and Ms Forbes, the Scottish Finance Secretary, took fresh swipes at each other in the race to become new SNP leader.
The pair are the frontrunners in the contest to become Nicola Sturgeon’s successor as party leader and first minister, with third candidate Ash Regan seen as an outsider.
In a debate hosted by Channel 4 last night, Mr Yousaf continued to highlight Ms Forbes’ socially conservative views.
He suggested he would not be able to serve under Ms Forbes if she became first minister and did not continue with Ms Sturgeon’s ‘progressive’ agenda.
Mr Yousaf also sniped that the Tories were ‘rooting for’ Ms Forbes to win and put pressure on the Finance Secretary over her stance on abortion buffer zones.
Humza Yousaf, the Scottish Health Secretary, and Kate Forbes, the Scottish Finance Secretary, took fresh swipes at each other in the race to become new SNP leader
But Ms Forbes, a member of the evangelical Free Church of Scotland, insisted her religious views would not influence how she would lead as first minister.
She also warned Mr Yousaf would face ‘a lot worse’ than her attacks on him, if he were to be elected SNP leader.
The tensions between the pair spilled over into last night’s debate from the first TV head-to-head on Tuesday, when Ms Forbes had panned Mr Yousaf’s ministerial record and suggested he should be sacked from his current health brief.
She used Tuesday’s debate to accuse her fellow Cabinet minister of overseeing failures across the country’s transport, justice and NHS systems during his time as a key member of the Scottish Government.
Last night, Mr Yousaf berated Ms Forbes for ‘trashing’ the SNP’s record and handing ‘ammunition’ to the party’s opponents.
‘We are only going to win independence, we are only going to win support for our cause if we work together as a team,’ he said.
‘But what unfortunately happened in the last TV debate, Kate, is you essentially gave our opponents so much ammunition to attack us with.
‘In fact (Scottish Tory leader) Douglas Ross stood at First Minister’s Questions today and said your words would be on every single Conservative leaflet.
‘What you’ve done is you’ve handed the Conservatives and our opponents material, ammunition to attack and trash our record.
‘They don’t fear you Kate, they are rooting for you to win so your words are on every single leaflet.’
Ms Forbes insisted the SNP’s opponents ‘do fear me’ and warned Mr Yousaf: ‘The future first minister is going to have to deal with a lot worse than we’ve been dealing with during this contest.
‘They’re going to have to stand up to the UK Government, they’re going to have to stand up to the opposition, and they’re going to be accountable to the people of Scotland who want answers and they want to see competent delivery of results.’
Mr Yousaf suggested he would not be able to serve under Ms Forbes if she became first minister and did not continue with Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘progressive’ agenda
Former minister Ash Regan – seen as the outsider in the SNP leadership contest – pitched herself as the candidate that would push quickest for Scottish independence
Mr Yousaf pressured Ms Forbes over her views on abortion, with legislation set to be introduced at Holyrood that would introduce buffer zones outside abortion clinics.
Ms Forbes has repeatedly said she would support the principle of the legislation, but she refused to say if she felt abortion was morally wrong during last night’s debate.
‘When Kate was asked this question (about her support for buffer zones) the other day at a hustings, you said “with balance”,’ Mr Yousaf said. ‘What I didn’t understand is what you mean by that balance?
‘I think it’s right to ask what do you mean by that balance, would you allow, for example, prayer vigils?’
In her response, Ms Forbes hit back at Mr Yousaf, saying: ‘This is an example where we see another candidate trying to poke holes and trying to erode the honest and solemn commitments I have made.
‘It boils down to a question of honesty – does Humza accept my word when I say that I will uphold those legal protections and support buffer zones or not?’
Mr Yousaf also hinted he could refuse to be part of the Scottish Government, if Ms Forbes became first minister.
Asked if he could serve a leader who voted on issues according to their religious faith, the Health Secretary said: ‘I am unashamedly progressie and we have done well with our progressive agenda in the SNP.
‘If I was to be asked to be in a government, I would have to be comfortable that the progressive agenda that has won us so much support in this country – not just for the SNP but for independence – that that was something the next first minister is going to continue.’
But Ms Forbes insisted her religious beliefs would not influence her leadership.
‘It will infuence how I lead in the same way it influenced how I set my budgets; in other words, not at all,’ the Finance Secretary said.
Meanwhile, former minister Ms Regan pitched herself as the candidate that would push quickest for Scottish independence, saying: ‘This is the time for brave hearts, not faint hearts.’
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