Three contenders in race to become Scotland first minister

Three contenders are in the running to succeed long-serving Scottish National Party (SNP) chief Nicola Sturgeon.

Here are profiles of the three candidates who will go to a ballot of the SNP's 104,000 members, after nominations close on Friday.

The result will be announced on March 27.

- Humza Yousaf -

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, 37, has won the most backing from other SNP lawmakers to replace Sturgeon after promising to uphold her policies on same-sex marriage, banning gay conversion practices and gender recognition changes.

Yousaf, the first non-white and first Muslim cabinet member in the Scottish government, took the Holyrood parliament's oath in both English and Urdu.

He has held some of the top jobs in government, including transport minister and justice secretary, but has been criticised in his current role as health secretary over long waiting times and falling numbers of hospital staff.

He says he will "absolutely challenge" the UK government's block on Holyrood's gender recognition bill, which he believes is an attack on Scotland's autonomy. He has vowed to revitalise Sturgeon's push for independence.

Yousaf has indicated that if rival Kate Forbes becomes first minister and takes a more conservative stance on social issues, he may not serve in her government.

- Kate Forbes -

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes is a 32-year-old devout Christian who first became known to the wider public when she delivered the Scottish Government's budget after then-finance minister Derek Mackay resigned in February 2020.

She has been seen as a rising star in the SNP, impressing her peers with her Gaelic language skills and her commitment to protecting it.

When announcing her bid to become the new first minister and leader of the SNP Forbes said she would continue to push for Scotland's independence.

"I can't sit back and watch our nation thwarted on the road to self-determination," she wrote on Twitter.

Her strong Christian views against gay marriage and her view that having children outside of marriage is "wrong" have drawn criticism from within the party and calls for her to back out of the contest.

She also spoke out against the leadership's plans on gender reform as one of 15 SNP members of the Scottish parliament or MSPs to sign an open letter in 2019 calling for it to delay any changes.

She did not participate in Scotland's Gender Recognition Reform Bill vote in 2022 due to being on maternity leave.

- Ash Regan -

Ash Regan, 48, made headlines after resigning from her position as minister for community safety over her opposition to the gender reform bill.

When announcing her leadership bid, she said she was the right person to "bring back unity, draw a line under certain things and move past them".

In a post on Twitter on Sunday, Regan outlined a plan to call for an independence convention to be held to "create a new vision of an independent Scotland".

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