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SNP leadership contender Ash Regan says ‘conflict of interest’ over Nicola Sturgeon’s husband in contest | Politics News

A challenger in the race to become SNP leader has argued there is a “conflict of interest” over the involvement of Nicola Sturgeon’s husband in the contest to choose her successor.

Questioning the role of SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, Ash Regan stressed the need for the process to be “transparent”.

But the party has insisted the ballot will be “free and fair” and points out it will be overseen by the elected national secretary, not staff members.

Ash Regan, pictured centre, is running against Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes for Scotland's top political job
Ash Regan, pictured centre, is running against Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes for Scotland’s top political job

Despite being viewed as an outsider, Ms Regan also insisted she was running “to win” and said many people had contacted her recently to say she was “the only hope for the SNP”.

The former Scottish government minister is up against the country’s health secretary Humza Yousaf and finance secretary Kate Forbes to head the party and become first minister, as Ms Sturgeon bows out after eight years in charge.

But with Mr Murrell married to the outgoing incumbent, Ms Regan told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme that he is “running the contest to replace his wife”.

“That would be like Carrie (Johnson) counting the votes for Boris’s successor,” she said.

“I think many people would think that would be fairly unusual.”

Ms Regan added: “I think there is a conflict of interest here.

“My campaign team, we have set out we think it should be an independent, third-party company that should running the contest, and we have also asked for there to be a neutral observer as well, just to make sure everything is above board.

“We’re the largest party in Scotland and the person that wins this contest will not just be leader of the SNP but they will actually also become the First Minister of the country.

“It is very significant, it is very important. And it is important for both the members of the SNP but also the wider country that there is trust, it is all above board and it is transparent.”

But a SNP spokesperson said: “Whoever becomes the next SNP leader will do so as a result of a free, fair and well-run election process in keeping with best practice for such ballots.”

Ms Regan, who quit the Scottish government last year so she could vote against gender recognition reforms at Holyrood, accepted she is “probably the least well-known out of the candidates with less name recognition” and acknowledged that meant she had to “work that bit harder to set out my stall”.

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But she said: “I’m in this competition to win it and I’ve been having a lot of support expressed to me by the membership.”

She added: “At the moment we understand that a large amount of the membership are still undecided, it is a very short contest.

“But I have had many people get in touch with me recently to say that they think I am the only hope for the SNP.

Subscribe to Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker

“We are at a crossroads at the moment in terms of where we go next and I believe that I’m the candidate that is setting out a credible democratic means for Scotland to express its will at the ballot box and give Scotland that choice over their own future.”

Sky News is hosting the Scotland leadership debate live from Edinburgh on Monday 13 March at 7pm.

Kate Forbes MSP, Ash Regan MSP and Humza Yousaf MSP will face questions from political editor Beth Rigby.

Viewers will be able to watch live and for free on Freeview channel 233, Sky channel 501, Virgin 603, BT 313, as well as on the Sky News YouTube channel and on the Sky News App and website.

There will also be further insight and analysis in the Politics Hub and on Sky News’ social channels (TikTok, Instagram and Twitter) and podcasts.

SNP leadership race: Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan announce bids to succeed Nicola Sturgeon | UK News

The Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf and former minister Ash Regan have announced their bids to stand to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the SNP.

The pair made their announcements in the Sunday Mail newspaper, with Mr Yousaf describing the time since Ms Sturgeon announced her resignation as a “rollercoaster of emotions”.

They are the first candidates to officially declare their intention to stand.

Mr Yousaf 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.”

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf during a visit to the Rapid Cancer Diagnostic Service (RCDS) at the NHS Fife Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy. The chairman of a doctors' union has warned there is "no way that the NHS in Scotland can survive" in its current form as he renewed his calls for a national conversation on the future of the service. Dr Iain Kennedy, chairman of the British Medical Association in Scotland, issued the warning on Wednesday, and said his NHS colleagues had told him over the pas
Humza Yousaf

The Glasgow Pollok MSP has been viewed as a potential successor to Ms Sturgeon since he first entered Holyrood in 2011.

He has been a perennial frontbencher in every SNP administration since, but has become mired with controversy in recent years 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.

Announcing her bid, Ms Regan said she believes she is the right person to “bring back unity, draw a line under certain things and move past them”.

SNP Minister Ash Regan speaks at the For Women Scotland and the Scottish Feminist Network demonstration outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, ahead of the vote on the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill. Picture date: Wednesday December 21, 2022.
Ash Regan

She referred to getting the NHS “back on its feet” following the COVID pandemic, boosting the economy, creating jobs and dealing with the cost of living crisis.

The former community safety minister has been referred to as a rebel SNP MSP after she resigned in protest against the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, and has since become an outspoken critic of the legislation.

She has also 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.

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Other potential candidates yet to announce their bids include finance secretary Kate Forbes, culture secretary Angus Robertson and Mairi McAllan.

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

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How the SNP will elect its new leader

SNP MP Angus MacNeil told Sky News that the party has a number of options to choose from following Ms Sturgeon’s surprise resignation.

“There are other capable people such as Jenny Gilruth or Ivan McKee, or I think Kate Forbes is going to put her hat into the ring as well,” he said.

“But one of the things that we do have is a depth of talent in the SNP.”

Candidates have until Friday 24 February 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 27 March.