SNP leadership contest: Kate Forbes is preferred Nicola Sturgeon successor among voters, poll shows, as satisfaction with Humza Yousaf as health secretary low
The Panelbase survey for the Sunday Times suggested Ms Forbes was a clear favourite with voters despite a torrid first week of her leadership campaign, where she was forced to defend saying she would not have voted for same-sex marriage at a Scottish Parliament vote.
A total of 23 per cent of those surveyed in the poll said they would like to see Ms Forbes become the country’s next first minister.
In a significant blow to Humza Yousaf's own campaign, just 15 per cent of those surveyed said the preferred the health secretary. Ash Regan – the former community safety minister who is viewed as an outsider in the race – received 7 per cent backing. The response of “don’t know” was on 49 per cent in answer to this question.
A total of 1,026 voters in Scotland were polled between February 21 and 24. However, the contest will be decided by a vote of SNP members rather than voters at large.
Voters were asked to rate the performance as government ministers of each of the three candidates in the running to succeed Ms Sturgeon, who announced her shock resignation just 11 days ago.
A total of 31 per cent said Ms Forbes had done a good job as finance secretary while 17 per cent said she did a bad job, giving her a positive approval rating of +14.
In contrast, Ms Regan’s approval rating was +3, while Mr Yousaf’s grip on the health brief was a distant -16.
Ms Forbes was a far narrower leader when only SNP voters were singled out in the poll, holding just a 2 per cent lead. She polled 20 per cent of votes, ahead of Mr Yousaf on 18 per cent and Ms Regan on 9 per cent.
The Church of Scotland has released a statement backing Ms Forbes’s right to hold her beliefs, “as we would for anyone else”, in a boost after the finance secretary was repeatedly criticised for her stance on same-sex marriage and birth outside of wedlock.
Quizzed on Sky’s Sophy Ridge show on Sunday morning, Mr Yousaf said he did not use his faith as a “basis for legislating” following scrutiny of rival Ms Forbes’ views on equal marriage. Mr Yousaf also responded to the Panelbase opinion poll putting satisfaction with his job as health secretary at -16.
He said: “Any health secretary in the midst of a global pandemic is going to face the challenges that we’re facing up here in Scotland. In fact, those long waits [in hospitals] are replicated in Conservative-led England or Labour-run Wales.
“So, those are common problems faced right across the UK.”
Mr Yousaf said the health service in Scotland had avoided strike action because he had “reached out” and engaged with trade unions, and a compromise had been reached.
The health secretary also said the “political obstacles” to Scottish independence would disappear if there is a sustained majority.
He said: “If we build a sustained majority for independence, not where some polls are 51 per cent, some at 49 per cent, but a sustained majority for independence, then those political obstacles will disappear. Independence will become a political inevitability.”
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