SNP leadership contest: All the candidates are flawed and whoever wins will face major challenge from resurgent Labour – Scotsman comment

With SNP members set to begin voting for their next leader from Monday, they are faced with a three-pronged fork in the road, with each candidate offering a markedly different vision of where they think Scotland should go.

The party’s once iron discipline has melted away to enable a most welcome debate, although some members may despair at just how bitter it has become, particularly between the two leading contenders, Kate Forbes and Humza Yousaf.

The third, Ash Regan, could have offered a hardline ‘independence now’ alternative to the frontrunners had her strategy been properly thought through and articulated well, but her decidedly lacklustre campaign has probably put paid to her ambitions.

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Yousaf has the ability and experience of a politician who, if in a Westminister government, would be an enthusiastic, if gaffe-prone, junior minister, still learning the ropes. It speaks volumes about the dearth of talent at the highest levels of the SNP that he is regarded as the ‘continuity' candidate.

Forbes is undoubtedly the most interesting candidate, in that she is clearly intellectually able, articulate, and capable of wiping the floor with Yousaf on matters of substance, showing particular steel in this week's STV debate. But she is also asking voters to suspend disbelief and accept that her deeply held faith is not so strong that it will influence her judgment on policy and leadership of the nation.

SNP members have a choice between three flawed candidates and, whoever they choose, the party and the country may be in for a rocky ride after the winner takes power. However, the end of an age dominated by political giants capable of painting enticing visions of independence could allow the debate to shift to the more everyday, practical issues that have a greater impact on people’s lives.

And, in this new arena, a resurgent Labour may thrive. A recent poll put the party just three percentage points behind the SNP on regional list voting intentions. During a visit to Scotland, Keir Starmer claimed yesterday that the SNP had “run out of road”. The first big test of that statement will be the next UK general election, a vote that may well prove to be far more consequential in the history of Scotland than the current SNP-only contest.



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