SNP leadership debate live: Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan to set out visions for Scotland | Scottish National party (SNP)

Key events

Debate ends

A question now on whether the leadership candidates would retain the UK monarchy as part of an independent Scotland.

Forbes says:

To be honest, I think there are bigger issues facing Scotland when it comes to growing our economy. I’m pretty relaxed, I would see it as part of the Commonwealth.

Yousaf reaffirms his republican beliefs, adding:

I believe we should be citizens first, not subjects. I agree with Kate it’s not the most immediate issue … we would keep the monarchy for a period of time but I hope an independent Scotland would be a republic in the future.

Regan says:

I’m also a republican and my preference would be to have an elected head of state. Listen, SNP policy is of course to keep the monarchy and I think that was the right policy at the time.

She adds that the Queen’s death has created “new circumstances” on the issue before telling Mackay that if she was first minister, she would attend the King’s coronation – something the other candidates endorse.

And with that, the first televised SNP leadership debate is over. Thanks for following along.

The trio are next asked if they would offer cabinet positions to the other two candidates in the event that they become party leader.

Yousaf says that while both his rivals are “talented”, he would not be “presumptuous” enough to imaging which roles he would give to people.

Regan agrees with Yousaf, adding she would “put the best people in the right role”. She does not commit to offering roles to Yousaf and Forbes.

Forbes says she “would hope there would be roles for both of them”. She adds there would be a room for Yousaf but “maybe not health”.

A viewer from Glasgow asks the candidates how they would tackle food poverty and the cost of living crisis in Scotland.

All three pledge to increase the Scottish Child Payment.

Yousaf has previously announced he would look to increase the payment, but says he would push it to £30 per week from £25 in his first budget if elected first minister.

Regan says she would see “what more we could do on that”.

But Forbes suggests any increase would “have to reflect what inflation is at the time”.

Candidates receive questions from viewers

The debate now moves on to questions from viewers. The first is from an SNP member, who asks what immediate steps candidates will take to prioritise Scotland’s “future place in the European Union” in the run up to and post-independence.

Forbes says Scotland must remain aligned with the EU as it smooths the path to re-entry. She adds that “we are already working very closely with some of our European partners when it comes to the big issues”.

Regan calls for pragmatism and says it could take “as many as 10 or 15 years” for Scotland to re-join the EU. She says “it might make sense for us to look at potentially joining EFTA instead” to prioritise the economy.

Yousaf says the SNP should be unequivocal about an independent Scotland’s ambitions to re-join the EU, not EFTA. He says the SNP should have a “permanent presence” in Brussels and should begin laying the groundwork now.

Yousaf says Regan’s first act would be to “dissolve our majority” by rejecting the Greens, the second largest pro-independence party in Scotland.

He asks how she can call herself a “unifier”, to which she responds:

I am a unifier. I have already united the wider movement around me.

If you look at what’s been happening in the arrangement with the Greens, we’ve actually got ourselves into some murky territoty at times.

She adds that the SNP needs to review its arrangement with the Greens but says that she is not afraid to govern as a minority government.

Yousaf asks Forbes how she can be trusted to stand up for the Scottish people when her “very first act as leader would be to cave in to the UK government”.

She says she “will fight harder than anyone else for Scotland” and says her job is to use devolution to serve the people of Scotland.

On the matter of section 35, she says the SNP needs to understand the legal advice and the likelihood of victory through opposing it.

She tells Yousaf:

I believe that courts should be the last option, not the first option. Unlike you, I’m not spoiling for a fight regardless of the legal advice.

Now Regan quizzes Forbes on how she plans to move the SNP away from being seen as just a “party of referendum” when “your plan is to keep asking for a referendum”.

Forbes says the party needs to persuade people to believe independence is a “route to an end” rather than an “abstract concept”. It needs to be seen as a way of ending poverty and ending injustices and inequalities in Scotland.

She says:

I’m the only potential leader who can reach out and persuade No voters to vote for independence in a referendum.

Regan hits back that Forbes’ plan is to pursue a “plan that has failed”. Forbes says it is time for a “reset” and to campaign for independence at every opportunity.

Regan asks Yousaf why he thinks he can find a way to succeed where Nicola Sturgeon failed.

Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan go head-to-head on at the SNP leadership debate.
Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan go head-to-head on at the SNP leadership debate. Photograph: STV news/Youtube

He responds:

I’ve got the experience of some of the toughest jobs in government but also I’ve got the vision to inspire people.

We’ve got to inspire people to vote for independence, we’ve got to grow that popular support.

It’s not about dismissing what Nicola has done, it’s about building upon that legacy.

He adds that the UK government would tell Regan “where to go” under her plan if she was first minister.

Candidates question one another

The candidates are now being given the opportunity to question one another, with Forbes “cross-examining” Yousaf to get the section under way.

She criticises his record in government, saying the trains “never ran on time” when he was transport minister and that “police were strained to breaking point” as justice minister.

Kate Forbes at the SNP leadership debate.
Kate Forbes at the SNP leadership debate. Photograph: STV news/Youtube

After highlighting NHS waiting times in Scotland in his current role as health minister, she asks why he would do a better job as first minister.

Yousaf defends his record in government, saying he built new roads and railways, extended protections for domestic abuse victims and delivered the fastest booster programme in the UK.

He adds:

In Scotland, we are the only nation not have NHS strikes. Not to have a single nurse or single ambulance driver go on strike. That’s not an accident, that’s not good fortune, it’s because I reached out across the divide and got a fair pay deal for the NHS.

Regan says she would “review” the powersharing agreement with the Greens to ensure it was “working for the people of Scotland”.

The Scottish Greens have been seen as hardline on gender reform, while Regan has said she would not challenge the UK Government’s move to block the legislation passed by MSPs in December.

Asked if she would scrap the deal, the former minister said:

I think we need to review whether that arrangement has been working for the people of Scotland.

Health secretary Yousaf describes the deal as “vital”, while Forbes says it would be for the Greens to decide if they were happy with her approach if she won the leadership contest.

Colin Mackay begins questioning candidates

The first question Mackay puts to the three candidates is on how and when they would deliver a second Scottish independence referendum.

Regan says the party has spent years seeking what she defines as a “moral mandate” and “begging” Westminster for “what is really an advisory referendum”.

She says she would create a “permanent mechanism” for Scots to express when the time is right for a referendum on independence.

Forbes responds by saying Scotland will have a referendum once the SNP has persuaded the majority of Scots to vote for independence.

She says:

That requires a leader … who can also reach out to those who are not yet persuaded.

Yousaf says he is the only candidate who will stand up against Westminster’s section 35 veto.

He adds:

The way we get independence is to build popular support, consistent majority support for independence will mean the political obstacles put up by Westminster, they will be overcome.

It is, however, telling that all three candidates have swerved Mackay asking for a date for any potential referendum.

Now is the turn of Kate Forbes to set out her stall in this leadership debate. She says her priorities include eradicating poverty, tackling the cost of living crisis and reforming the NHS.

She says the key to achieving her aims is by building a “world-leading green economy capable of driving growth for generations to come”.

The SNP finance secretary says “more of the same … is an acceptance of mediocrity”.

She continues:

It’s time for change, continuity won’t cut it – tonight, I offer a new start for Scotland.

More of the same is not a manifesto – it’s an acceptance of mediocrity. We can do better.

She adds that it is time “for a new generation to lead, and I am ready and able to lead that new generation”.

Leadership candidate Humza Yousaf kicks off by saying he will build on “our government’s radical and progressive agenda” and claims only independence “will unleash our nation’s potential”.

He says independence for Scotland is “normal” and “inevitable” and says he will take the campaign to “new heights where the will of the Scottish people can no longer be denied”.

He continues:

I will build a wellbeing economy with people at the heart, so we can ensure that every child in Scotland, like my girls, has the best start in life, rich with opportunities no matter your background.

I am the only candidate who will stand up to Westminster’s power grab and defend our democracy, maintain a pro-independence majority in parliament, and I’m the only candidate who is unequivocally committed to protecting and advancing the rights of all those we serve.

As first minister, at every turn, I will serve you the people of Scotland.

Debate starts

The SNP leadership debate begins with STV’s host Colin Mackay asking the three candidates for a minute-long opening statement each.

Ash Regan goes first and immediately tells viewers the party has “lost its way”. She goes on to say she will launch a new campaign for independence.

She says:

There’s been no progress on independence in the last few years, despite the worst UK government of all time. We used to grow support for independence by governing wisely, and it worked.

At every election going forward, we will make it crystal clear that a majority of votes for the SNP will be a democratic mandate for independence.

My priority as leader will be to deliver effective government that responds to the needs of the people of Scotland. At the same time, we will build the foundations for independence through a dedicated commission, and launch a new independence campaign through a national convention.

A vote for me is a vote for a better Scotland for all of us, through independence.

One of the candidates to become the next leader of the SNP, Humza Yousaf, has been out and about campaigning with student supporters and activists at Glasgow University union earlier today.

SNP leadership candidate Humza Yousaf campaigning in Glasgow.
SNP leadership candidate Humza Yousaf campaigning in Glasgow. Photograph: Duncan Bryceland/REX/Shutterstock

He was later joined by prominent supporters Kaukab Stewart and Angus Robertson.

Humza Yousaf alongside SNP backers Kaukab Stewart and Angus Robertson at Kelvin Way in Glasgow, Scotland.
Humza Yousaf alongside SNP backers Kaukab Stewart and Angus Robertson at Kelvin Way in Glasgow. Photograph: Duncan Bryceland/REX/Shutterstock

Welcome to the liveblog

Good evening and welcome to the first SNP leadership debate blog. Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan will all set out their visions for Scotland as they battle it out to succeed the outgoing leader Nicola Sturgeon.

We will be bringing you all the latest from the STV debate, which is due to get under way at 9pm and is expected to last just over an hour.

The contest has already become an existential fight over the SNP’s direction, policies and ethos. The two leading candidates, Yousaf and Forbes, are setting out competing visions – Yousaf is the continuity candidate and Forbes, 32, the youthful counter-revolutionary.

And the contest could end with the socially conservative Forbes, a committed member of the Calvinist Free Church of Scotland, as Scotland’s next first minister.

Indeed many of Sturgeon’s major policies are now under threat with deep divisions emerging, as rivals attack key pieces of legislation.

The gulf will become clearer when the two frontrunners and the third contender, Ash Regan, face off in Glasgow shortly, in what will be the first of four televised debates.

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