Stephen Flynn has rejected claims the SNP is facing an “existential crisis” amid infighting within the leadership contest.
The SNP’s Westminster leader appealed to Nicola Sturgeon’s replacement to unite the party when the race ends in two weeks.
Ash Regan, Kate Forbes and Humza Yousaf are vying to become the party’s next leader, with the vote having opened to SNP members on Monday.
In the latest televised debate, on Sky News, front-runners Yousaf and Ms Forbes clashed over their public support.
Flynn, who is backing Yousaf along with other SNP heavyweights including Deputy First Minister John Swinney, was asked about disagreements within the party on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Tuesday.
He said: “No, no, I don’t think there is an existential crisis at all.
“Of course, there’s the wider issue here of the fact that there is quite clearly disagreement in discussion within the party.
“But it’s incumbent upon a new leader once they’re in place to bring everyone together.”
Defending the public disagreements between the candidates – which have included criticisms of social views and Government performances, he added: “I think it is inevitable when you’re in a leadership contest, no matter which party it is, there’s going to be differences of opinion.
“What I would hope for is when we get on the other side of this, once the contest has concluded in a couple of weeks, that we can come together and move forward together.
“I think that’s what members would expect of us, and I think that’s what the public would expect from us as well.”
Flynn also rejected claims he – along with the SNP ‘establishment’ – had endorsed Yousaf amid concern over his lower public rating.
It follows back and forth between the candidates over who is more popular with the public.
A Sky News poll released on Monday found 44% of respondents think Yousaf would be a bad leader, compared to 39% for Ms Regan and 36% for Ms Forbes.
During the live Sky debate, Ms Forbes said: “On the polling, I don’t think that’s where you’re particularly strong.
“I have not only got net positive ratings, I have actually got higher net positive ratings than either of the opposition leaders. That is what matters for an election winner.”
Yousaf replied: “I accept we have to reach out to No (to independence) voters but it is so important that we don’t lose our own supporters, and the way we do that is by not abandoning our progressive agenda.”
STV News is now on WhatsApp
Get all the latest news from around the countryFollow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp
Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country