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.”
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”.
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.
The controversies which piled pressure on Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon’s time as Scotland’s first minister in 10 charts
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.
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.