Regan suffers currency collapse amid more SNP leadership sniping – NewsEverything Scotland

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Regan suffers currency collapse amid more SNP leadership sniping – NewsEverything Scotland
Regan suffers currency collapse amid more SNP leadership sniping – NewsEverything Scotland

On the day the ballot of party members opened, Kate Forbes and Humza Yousaf boasted about their own polling numbers and poured scorn on each other’s in a Sky News hustings.

All three candidates hoping to replace Nicola Sturgeon as first minister said they would demand a second independence referendum as the price of propping up a minority Labour government at Westminster after the general election.

The hustings, at Hopetoun House near Edinburgh, coincided with a poll suggesting Ms Forbes is the most trusted candidate with general voters, while Mr Yousaf is rated as the least competent and least trustworthy.

The YouGov survey also found support for independence down from 50 per cent last month among decided voters to 46%, with 54% opposed to it. 
The poll found 52% of voters believed Scotland would still be in the UK in 10 years’ time.

Despite Mr Yousaf having the backing of the party hierarchy, Ms Forbes was more popular – and Mr Yousaf conspicuously unpopular – with the electorate at large.

Of those polled, 28% thought Ms Forbes would be a strong leader, 37% said competent and 30% trustworthy.

Mr Yousaf was viewed by 39% as a weak leader, by 40% as incompetent and by 42% as untrustworthy.

The hustings saw each hopeful grilled by Sky political editor Beth Rigby, with Mr Yousaf asked about his record as health secretary and finance secretary Ms Forbes asked about the socially conservative views she holds in line with her Christian beliefs.

Mr Yousaf was the most polished at handling the questions, blaming Covid for a series of missed NHS targets. 

Asked if she would enact Scottish Government plans to ban gay “conversion therapy”, Ms Forbes said it was “abhorrent” but stopped short of saying she would ban it outright. 

She said: “My commitment to you is to look carefully at (banning it). What I’m not going to do, because I don’t think any government has done that yet, it is to precede the normal process of legislation.”

“I think people should be allowed to live freely as they choose and I don’t think there should be conversion therapy in existence in Scotland.”

Asked if a gay man should be allowed to seek conversion therapy to change his sexuality, Ms Forbes said: “Well, it’s his choice, but I do not think we should allow conversion therapy.”

READ MORE: SNP councillor quits North Lanarkshire council

The biggest loser of the evening was Ms Regan, who previously said she wanted a new Scottish currency up and running a “couple of months” after independence.

She clarified her position to say that was only the final phase of a process that could take two or three years, and would ideally start under devolution.

Asked to explain in detail how she would set up a currency, Ms Regan said she would have an independence commission set up the infrastructure. 

But asked what institutions she would need, Ms Regan could only name a central bank and visibly floundered as Ms Rigby repeatedly asked her what else was necessary.

“I will take advice from the very best bankers and economists,” she said.

Pressed again what institutions were needed, Ms Regan said: “Well, that’s the institutions you need. It’s smart planning here. This is a credible plan.

“I can’t give you the full details of how it would work yet because obviously we have to go through that process.”

READ MORE: What new institutions of economic policy would an independent Scotland need?

Asked again what other institutions were needed, Ms Regan asked Ms Rigby: “What institutions are you talking about?”

Ms Rigby said: “You don’t know? The independent debt management office? Fiscal watchdog?”

Ms Regan said: “I don’t have full detail on this at the moment because this is going to be the stuff that will be looked into by the Commission and the senior economists and bankers.

“As a first minister, you are surrounded by civil servants, you have top advisers who would be able to advise you on this. I said very publicly right at the beginning of this contest, that being able to set out a detailed policy programme in a week was an impossibility.

“So I am setting out some key lines here which are the direction that I would go in, but I’m quite upfront with you, I cannot fill in all the details at this point.”

Mr Yousaf appeared uncomfortable when Ms Regan asked why he missed a key vote on gay marriage in 2014. 

He suggested she was “doing Alba’s work for them” as Alba leader Alex Salmond has said Mr Yousaf dodged the vote because of religious pressure when he was first minister.

“To drag that up nine years later in a leadership contest, I don’t think reflects very well on you,” Mr Yousaf said. 

Ms Forbes said she would be an “election winner” who could appeal to No voters when asked by Mr Yousaf about her poll ratings.

He boasted he haf surged 19 points ahead among SNP members, while Ms Forbes seemed to be appealing to Tories.

He said: “I accept we have to reach out to No voters but it is so important that we don’t lose our own supporters, and the way we do that is by not abandoning our progressive agenda, isn’t that right?”

READ MORE: SNP race sliding into ‘paranoia and mistrust’ amid vote rigging row

Ms Forbes said: “On the polling, I don’t think that’s where you’re particularly strong. I have not only got net positive ratings, I have actually got higher net positive ratings than either of the opposition leaders. That is what matters for an election winner.”

Asked if author JK Rowling, a critic of the Scottish Government’s gender reforms was a “national treasure”, all three said she was, but Mr Yousaf said he disagreed with her views.

Ms Forbes and Ms Regan said she was “brave” to speak out on the issue.

All three candidates said they expected Labour’s Keir Starmer to be the next PM, and that Indyref2 would be the price for keeping a Labour minority government in power.

Asked about supporting a minority Labour administration at Westminster, Mr Yousaf said the price of SNP support would be “the power to hold a referendum, because our democracy and our voice should not be denied any longer”.

Ms Forbes said she would work with Labour issue-by-issue, especially to fight poverty, but added: “For anything more, (my price) has got to be another referendum.”

She said she would not “trade poverty for independence”, but said “any support would have to be contingent on another referendum”.

Ms Regan said: “At the moment, we’re obviously in a political stalemate where Westminster are denying the voice of Scotland being expressed, so a Section 30 order [transferring referendum powers to Holyrood] would be an obvious way to go there.”

Tory MSP Craig Hoy said: “The gloves were well and truly off again in round three of the televised debates during this increasingly bitter SNP leadership contest.

“The real priorities facing the people of Scotland are being completely ignored by all three candidates as they play out their civil war in public.

“It is abundantly clear that the only thing that unites Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan in any way at all is, predictably, independence. That will always be the top priority for any SNP politician, not the real issues facing the country.

“The three candidates also confirmed that they’d happily prop up a Labour government in exchange for another divisive referendum. 

“That’s because they know Keir Starmer and Anas Sarwar would rather work with – than stand up to – the SNP.

“Whoever wins, Scotland loses. Only the Scottish Conservatives are strong enough to stand up to this out-of-touch SNP Government and get the focus onto Scotland’s real priorities.”

SNP MSP Jim Fairlie, a supporter of Ms Forbes, said: “Poll after poll has shown that the Scottish electorate trust Kate Forbes the most, and this was the latest tv debate to demonstrate Kate is the outstanding leadership candidate for the party.  

“If we are serious about independence and convincing the middle ground, a fresh approach is required – more of the same will not cut it.

“As the latest poll for Sky News highlights, strong, competent and trustworthy leadership is what Scotland needs. I firmly believe only Kate Forbes can be trusted with Scotland’s future and to lead the nation to independence.”

SNP MSP Neil Gray, for Mr Yousaf, said: “In debate after debate Humza is showing why he is first choice for First Minister. With the momentum firmly with his campaign, Humza has shown once again tonight that he is the best and only person who can lead our party and persuade people of the merits of independence.

“It was clear tonight that only Humza has a clear understanding of the needs of our NHS and a commitment to supporting our public services.”


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