SNP leadership hopefuls torching each other live on TV

Nicola Sturgeon announces she is to step down as SNP leader

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The SNP leadership hopefuls have been accused of “torching each other” and “fighting like Nats in a sack” in a TV debate. Ash Regan, Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes clashed in the 70-minute showdown on STV last night, which was dominated by jibes over their poor records in government and Scottish independence as the trio turned on each other.

The Scottish Tories said the explosive debate shows the SNP is “openly at war with itself”.

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy MSP said: “We all knew the SNP was split down the middle but last night’s vicious debate laid bare the true scale of the mutual loathing between the different factions.

“The candidates spent the debate torching each other and their party’s record in government. Given they all are – or were – integral to that government, they were also, effectively, setting fire to themselves.

“Kate Forbes said she’d not have Humza Yousaf as health secretary if she was victorious, but it’s almost impossible to envisage either of them serving in the other’s cabinet, such was the extent of the vitriol they directed at each other.

“The SNP is openly at war with itself. But it’s ordinary Scots who are suffering as senior figures in the Scottish Government neglect the day job to kick lumps out of rival factions in their own party.

“But even when this brutal contest is over, they won’t be able to return to the people’s priorities, because it’s clear a shared obsession with pushing independence is the only thing they agree on.”

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross added: “The only mention of health in tonight’s SNP debate was Kate Forbes saying Humza Yousaf shouldn’t be in charge of it.

“They fought like Nats in a sack and the only thing they agreed on was independence and dividing the country all over again.”

Andrew Bowie, the Conservative MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardin, said: “So, what Kate is saying here is…under the SNP trains didn’t run on time, the police were at breaking point and in the NHS, waiting lists are still at record highs.

“I mean, it’s nice of them to admit what we’ve been accusing them of for years, just didn’t expect it on live TV!”

And Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “After 15 years of SNP failure, Scotland is crying out for change.

“But all the SNP can offer Scotland is the politically illiterate Ash Regan, the social and economic conservative Kate Forbes and the dangerously incompetent Humza Yousaf.

“Frankly, I would not trust these candidates to run a bath let alone a country.”

The most stinging exchanges last night came between Scottish Finance Secretary Ms Forbes and Health Secretary Mr Yousaf.

Ms Forbes attacked Mr Yousaf’s record in government, suggesting there would be a place for him in her cabinet but “maybe not at health”.

Meanwhile, he hit back at her record on social issues.

Ms Forbes said: “Humza, you’ve had a number of jobs in government.

“You were a transport minister and the trains were never on time, when you were justice secretary the police were stretched to breaking point, and now as health minister, we’ve got record-high waiting times. What makes you think you can do a better job as First Minister?”

Asked if he is the “continuity candidate” and if that means he is the “no change candidate”, Mr Yousaf shot back: “If change means lurching to the right, Kate, if it means rolling back on progressive values, that’s not the right change.”

He told Ms Forbes her comments early in the campaign, when she said she would not have voted for same-sex marriage if she had been an MSP when the legislation passed, saw “many people, particularly from our LGBTQ community, say they wouldn’t vote for independence” if she is the leader.

Elsewhere during the debate, Ms Regan accused her rivals of “going cap in hand to Westminster” on Scottish independence and branded their plans “wishy-washy”.

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