Health secretary Humza Yousaf and former minister Ash Regan have announced they will stand to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader.
SNP depute leader Keith Brown and rising star Mairi McAllan have announced they will not run in the race.
Favourites for the job, finance secretary Kate Forbes and constitution secretary Angus Robertson have yet to formally declare.
The winner of the race is due to be announced on March 27.
The pair revealed their plans to the Sunday Mail, and are the first to announce their candidacy.
Yousaf told the paper he had been through a “rollercoaster of emotions” since Sturgeon announced her resignation.
He said: “You’ve got to put yourself forward if you think you’re the best person for the job. And I do. This is the top job in the country, and it needs somebody who has experience.”
The Glasgow Pollok MSP had been mulling over the possibility of succeeding Sturgeon after her shock announcement this week.
Yousaf, 37, became the youngest MSP when he entered Holyrood in 2011 and has been a perennial frontbencher in every SNP administration since.
He has served in numerous roles throughout his political career and was appointed as cabinet secretary for justice in 2018.
Among his notable work in the role was the introduction of the Hate Crime Bill which caused controversy among his political opponents.
As health secretary, he recently came under pressure over record waiting times in A&E wards during one of the most challenging winters for the NHS.
On the other hand, Regan told the Sunday Mail: “We need to bring back unity, draw a line under certain things and move past them. I believe I am the person to do that.
“The electorate expect the Scottish Government to focus on things that are important to them.
“That means the NHS which is still struggling to get back on its feet after the pandemic. People expect a First Minister to concentrate on boosting the economy, creating jobs and helping them deal with the cost of living crisis.”
The former community safety minister quit her post in protest against the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill and has since become an outspoken critic of the legislation.
Since the First Minister’s announcement this week that she would stand down from the role, Regan has called for SNP members who left in the past year to be given a vote in the leadership race – a move described as “preposterous” by deputy First Minister John Swinney.
Swinney has ruled himself out to be next the leader, as did Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s Westminster leader.
Actor Brian Cox previously announced his support for Angus Robertson, saying he would “make a great leader”.
“He’s a very strong European and has lots of connections because his mother was German. So there’s a very strong European connection for Angus. But he also has a total grasp of the situation, so I think he would make a strong leader.”
Robertson has yet to confirm if he will make a bid for the leadership, but bookies have reported him as one of the early favourites for the job.
Candidates have until Friday to receive more than the threshold of 100 nominations from at least 20 local branches – if more than one candidate passes that mark, an election will be triggered on March 27.
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