Who will succeed Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland and what does that mean for potential independence? An overview of the most promising candidates.
In Scotland, the successor to outgoing Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon will be decided this Monday. The most promising candidates are Finance Minister Kate Forbes (32) and Health Minister Humza Yousaf (37). The third candidate, Ash Regan (49), a former cabinet member, is considered an outsider. The more than 72,000 members of the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) can cast their votes until 1 p.m. German time. After that, the decision will be announced.
On February 15, Sturgeon surprisingly announced her resignation as “First Minister” and party leader of the SNP. The 52-year-old was the first woman to hold the highest government office in the northernmost part of Britain and is considered a driving force behind independence from the United Kingdom. About 5.5 million people live in Scotland – a tenth of the population of England.
All three candidates are for possible Scottish independence
Applicant Kate Forbes is a Conservative Christian who belongs to the Free Church of Scotland. Forbes rejects same-sex marriage and has repeatedly criticized unmarried pregnancies in front of the press, but also said in an interview with “Sky News” that in a free society you can do what you want. As a child she lived part of the time in India, later studied in Cambridge and Edinburgh and briefly worked as an accountant for Barclays in London. At the age of 26 she assisted in the Ministry of Finance and in 2018 became the first woman to take over the office of Minister.
Health Minister Humza Yousaf is a Muslim and the first non-white cabinet minister in Scotland. He has been part of the government since 2012, first as justice minister and then as transport minister. Yousaf is the closest representative of continuity, has the greatest public support from MPs and is also preferred by the incumbent Nicola Sturgeon. His track record as a minister, however, is said by his critics to be not good enough. The most scathing criticism came from his competitor Kate Forbes during a TV debate: “You were transport secretary and the trains were never on time. When you were justice secretary the police were overloaded and now as health secretary we have record-breaking waiting times.”
Nicola Sturgeon supports Health Minister Yousaf
Ash Regan is behind Forbes and Yousaf in the polls. During the election campaign, she evoked the unity of the party and is regarded as a critic of Nicola Sturgeon within the party. The current cooperation between the SNP and the Green Party is likely to become more difficult with Regan, which, unlike the Green Party, supports the oil and gas industry in the North Sea and would like to work to preserve jobs there. After studying in England, Regan worked as a PR manager and joined SNP in 2014.
With Sturgeon’s retirement comes the question of the future of the independence movement. All candidates have announced that they will continue to push ahead with a separation. However, the way to get there is unclear: According to a decision by the highest British court, a new referendum is only possible with the consent of the central government in London, which strictly rejects such a step. In polls, support for independence fell after Sturgeon’s retirement.
The new party leader is also to become “First Minister” this Tuesday in Edinburgh’s regional parliament. In addition to the question of independence, the new leadership will face other difficult issues. Despite their government positions, both Forbes and Yousaf are considered comparatively inexperienced. Top politicians such as Sturgeon’s Vice John Swinney or the former SNP group leader in the British Parliament, Angus Robertson, had not run for office.
Scotland is arguing about a more liberal gender law
Prime Minister Sturgeon has caused tensions in the party and society with a liberal gender law. It is planned that the obligation for a medical report as a prerequisite for a change in the gender entry will no longer apply. The minimum age for an application has been reduced from 18 to 16 years.
The British government is blocking the plan, which is also opposed by some in the SNP. Yousaf is the only candidate who has promised to take legal action against London’s veto. Now there is a risk of trouble with the Greens, who are demanding that the project be adhered to and want the conflict with London to escalate. In the 2021 regional election, the SNP narrowly missed out on an absolute majority. She then entered into a collaboration with the Greens.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.