Scotland’s Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, its former community safety minister Ash Regan and its Finance Secretary Kate Forbes have all won sufficient backing to be entered into the ballot to be the next SNP leader and Scottish first minister, the party has confirmed.

After eight years in the role, Nicola Sturgeon announced earlier this month she she would be standing down as First Minister of Scotland.

She will remain in office until the SNP selection process is complete and a successor is appointed. Nominations for the ballot closed at noon on Friday, with candidates required to get at least 100 votes from a minimum of 20 local party branches to advance.

An SNP spokesman said: “With the 12pm deadline now past, we can confirm that all three declared candidates for the leadership of the SNP – Kate Forbes, Ash Regan and Humza Yousaf – have passed the threshold of nominations by at least 100 SNP members drawn from at least 20 SNP branches.”

Members will now be asked to vote using the single transferable vote (STV) system, with a winner announced on 27 March.

Hamza Yousaf

File photo dated 12/05/22 of Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, who is to meet union leaders on Friday in a bid to avoid health service strikes bringing parts of the NHS to a halt. PA Photo. Issue date: Friday December 23, 2022. Scotland's Health Secretary will hold discussions after nurses north of the border overwhelmingly rejected the latest pay offer put to them, which would have seen their wages rise by an average of 7.5% and the lowest pay packets climb by 11.3%. See PA story INDUSTRY Strikes. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf (Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

Humza Yousaf became the youngest MSP elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2011 at the age of26.

He served in several junior ministerial roles under both Alex Salmond – the former first minister and present leader of the Alba Party – and Ms Sturgeon, before being appointed cabinet secretary for justice in 2018.

He was later given the job of health and social care secretary at Holyrood in 2021, and played a leading role in the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination programme in Scotland.

Kate Forbes

Kate Forbes arrives at BBC studios in Glasgow, she has confirmed she is entering the race to succeed Nicola Sturgeon. Picture date: Monday February 20, 2023. PA Photo. Current First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced last week that she will stand down after eight years, leaving office as the longest serving and first female First Minister since the creation of the Scottish Parliament. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Kate Forbes (Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA)

Kate Forbes started career as an MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch in 2016, and shortly afterwards was made minister for public finance, in 2018.

In February 2020, she became the first woman to both hold the post of Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, and deliver the Scottish Budget.

She is currently on maternity leave after the birth of her first child and, at 32 years old, could become the youngest-ever first minister if she were elected.

A devout Christian and Gaelic speaker, she has previously faced criticism for comments where she appeared to oppose abortion.

She has said she would not have supported Nicola Sturgeon’s gender reform plans in their current form – she was on maternity leave when a majority of MSPs backed the Gender Recognition Reform Bill in December. The legislation would reduce the minimum age a person can apply for a gender recognition certificate from 18 to 16, and remove the need for a medical diagnosis and evidence of having lived for two years in their acquired gender.

However, on Thursday, Ms Forbes said she would “defend to the hilt the rights of everybody in Scotland, particularly minorities, to live and to love without fear or harassment in a pluralistic and tolerant society”.

Ash Regan

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 24: SNP MSP Ash Regan on the way to First Minister's Questions in the Scottish Parliament, on November 24, 2022 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ken Jack/Getty Images)
Ash Regan (Photo: Ken Jack/Getty)

Ms Regan has been a strong critic of Ms Sturgeon’s stance on gender recognition and quit her job as minister for community safety in October citing concerns about “the safety and dignity of women and girls”.

The Herald reports that the Edinburgh Eastern MSP is expected to enter the race when nominations open. She told the newspaper the independence movement should “reinvigorate our message and widen our appeal”.

She said: “I believe that independence is bigger than one person, bigger than one party, and an independence convention should be assembled as a matter of urgency once there is a new leader.”

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