Humza Yousaf 'narrowly ahead of rivals' in SNP leadership race poll

Some 31% of party members surveyed backed the health secretary to take over from Nicola Sturgeon as FM.

Humza Yousaf ahead of Kate Forbes and Ash Regan in first poll of SNP members amid leadership battle Scottish Government

Humza Yousaf has come out narrowly ahead of SNP leadership rivals Kate Forbes and Ash Regan as the favourite to replace Nicola Sturgeon, the first poll of party members has suggested.

The survey, conducted by Savanta on behalf of The Telegraph, suggests SNP members favour the health secretary over the other two candidates.

Asked who they would most like to see lead the SNP, 31% of respondents said they supported Yousaf.

The finance secretary came second, with 25% of those polled saying they would rather see her lead the party.

Only 11% said they would prefer Regan to win the contest.

However, nearly a third (32%) of the SNP members polled answered, “don’t know”.

Chris Hopkins, political research director at Savanta, said: “This first poll of SNP members really indicates that the race to replace Nicola Sturgeon is too close to call.

“While Humza Yousaf narrowly leads Kate Forbes, with such a high proportion of undecided voters, it’s difficult to be able to say definitively who is really in the lead.

“There is a small indication that undecided voters may break for Yousaf, with male members more likely to break for Forbes, and women making up a higher proportion of undecided voters at the moment, but it’s also hard to know for sure to what extent gender is a key driver for vote intention among SNP members.

“Removing undecided voters to give a headline voting intention still puts Yousaf short of the 50% threshold required, and therefore he would require some of Ash Regan’s votes to transfer to him to be elected leader.”

Hopkins said that while the figures suggested Regan’s “race is run”, the former community minister’s supporters could prove “pivotal” in deciding who ultimately wins the race.

The contest, he said, could go “down to the wire”.

The poll, carried out between February 23 and March 1, surveyed 515 SNP members.

Responding, Yousaf said: “This poll echoes the conversations I’ve had with countless members in recent days about their desire for a grassroots led campaign for independence. That’s my offer to SNP members.

“There’s a long way to go in the campaign and I’m working hard to spread my message of unifying the Yes movement and standing up to Westminster power grabs.

“I’m looking forward to the remainder of the campaign and speaking to members across our beautiful country to ask them to make me their first choice for First Minister.”

It comes after a survey last week found Forbes was the most popular candidate to succeed Sturgeon among those who voted for the SNP in the 2021 Holyrood election.

SNP leadership contender Kate Forbes came ahead of the other two candidates in previous polls.STV News

Some 28% of respondents said they supported the finance secretary, putting her ahead of rivals Yousaf and Regan, who polled 20% and 7% respectively.

Of the 1,001 people questioned for communications agency The Big Partnership, 31% were undecided.

A later poll among the wider Scottish electorate also found Forbes was the favourite to win the contest.

The Panelbase survey for the Sunday Times found 23% of voters would like the finance secretary to become first minister. Yousaf placed second with 15% while Regan was third with 7%.

On Wednesday, the candidates went head to head in Cumbernauld for the first of several hustings.

The second party hustings will take place on Friday night in Glenrothes and comes amid allegations by former first minister Alex Salmond that Yousaf intentionally missed a key vote on equal marriage.

STV will host the first television debate between the candidates at 9pm on Tuesday, March 7.

STV political editor Colin Mackay will quiz the candidates in Scotland’s Next First Minister: The STV Debate before they cross-examine each other.

Members of the public from across Scotland will also have their questions put to the contenders to replace Nicola Sturgeon.

The 70-minute programme will be shown live on STV and the STV Player from the broadcaster’s Pacific Quay headquarters in Glasgow.

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code