The race to replace Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader and Scottish first minister will be a “contested” election, the SNP’s president has said – as the party grinds into action to hold a leadership contest.
Ms Sturgeon shocked Holyrood on Wednesday after she announced she was stepping down at a hastily arranged press conference.
Initial polling suggests there is no clear frontrunner to succeed the First Minister, who spent eight years in the job without anointing an obvious successor.
The narrow favourite to succeed the Glasgow MSP is Kate Forbes, the Scottish government’s 32-year-old finance secretary.
Ms Forbes, a fluent Gaelic speaker who represents part of the Highlands in the Scottish Parliament, enjoys a higher profile because of her role in charge of the Scottish government budget.
A member of the evangelical Free Church of Scotland, she attracted criticism after making anti-abortion comments at a prayer breakfast in 2018. In 2019 she was one of 15 SNP politicians to sign a letter calling for the delay of Gender Recognition Act reform.
Other early favourites include Edinburgh Central MSP Angus Robertson, the party’s constitution secretary – and Humza Yousaf, the health secretary who led the country’s response to the Covid crisis.
John Swinney, Ms Sturgeon’s deputy who previously led the party between 2000 and 2004, is also considered an option.
But the field is widely see as wide open, with by far the most popular option in polling for new leader being “don’t know”.
Michael Russell, the party’s president, said he expected that the leadership process would be “shortened” and there to be a “contested election”.
“I think that will be good for the SNP, to have different points of view contesting in a respectful way,” he told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.
“I think we will decide that pretty soon and have a clear timetable that will take us forward.”
Ms Sturgeon’s resignation follows a string of political challenges in recent months, after Westminster blocked her plans for gender recognition reform and the Supreme Court shot down powers for a second independence referendum.