Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan confirm SNP leadership bids

Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan will stand to succeed Nicola Sturgeon. Credit: PA

Humza Yousaf, Scotland's ex-health secretary, and former minister Ash Regan have announced they will both stand to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader.

Mr Yousaf, announcing his leadership bid in the Sunday Mail, said he had been through a “rollercoaster of emotions” since Ms Sturgeon confirmed she is stepping down.

He said: “You’ve got to put yourself forward if you think you’re the best person for the job. And I do. This is the top job in the country, and it needs somebody who has experience.”

The Glasgow Pollok MSP had been mulling over the possibility of succeeding Ms Sturgeon after her shock announcement this week.

Mr Yousaf, who entered Holyrood in 2011 and has been a perennial frontbencher in every SNP administration since, has long been viewed as a potential successor to Ms Sturgeon in Bute House.

Nicola Sturgeon Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

But recent years have seen him mired in the controversy surrounding the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill – which faced criticisms over its impact on freedom of expression – and his stewardship of the NHS, which faced the hardest winter in its history in recent months.

Mr Yousaf and Ms Regan are the first candidates to declare officially their intention to stand.

In the Sunday Mail, Ms Regan said: “We need to bring back unity, draw a line under certain things and move past them. I believe I am the person to do that.

“The electorate expect the Scottish Government to focus on things that are important to them.

“That means the NHS which is still struggling to get back on its feet after the pandemic. People expect a First Minister to concentrate on boosting the economy, creating jobs and helping them deal with the cost-of-living crisis.”

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The former community safety minister quit her post in protest against the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill and has since become an outspoken critic of the legislation.

Since the First Minister’s announcement this week that she would stand down from the role, Ms Regan has called for SNP members who left in the past year to be given a vote in the leadership race – a move described as “preposterous” by Deputy First Minister John Swinney.

Mr Swinney has ruled himself out to be next the leader, as did Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s Westminster leader, and depute leader Keith Brown.

Well liked within the party, Mr Brown was thought to be a contender to replace Nicola Sturgeon after her resignation on Wednesday. But the Scottish justice secretary put to rest any rumours of a potential candidacy on Sunday, tweeting that he will not be in the running – despite calls for him to do so from “parliamentary colleagues and senior office bearers”.

Actor Brian Cox had previously announced his support for Angus Robertson, saying he would “make a great leader”.

Angus Robertson MSP Credit: Lesley Martin/PA

Mr Robertson has yet to confirm if he will make a bid for the leadership, but bookies have reported him as one of the early favorites for the job.

Other potential candidates yet to announce include Finance Secretary Kate Forbes.

Candidates have until Friday to receive more than the threshold of 100 nominations from at least 20 local branches.

If more than one candidate passes that mark, an election will be triggered, culminating on March 27.

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