SNP leadership contenders set for first live televised debate

Kate Forbes, Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan will go head-to-head live on STV on Tuesday night.

STV debate: SNP leadership contenders set for first live TV debate in bid to become First Minister STV News

The three contenders to become Scotland’s next First Minister are set to take part in their first live televised debate.

Kate Forbes, Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan will go head-to-head on STV at 9pm on Tuesday.

Scotland’s Next First Minister: The STV Debate will see political editor Colin Mackay grill the candidates 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.

Live updates, analysis and reaction will be available throughout on the STV News website.

Following the debate, Scotland Tonight presenter Rona Dougall will be joined in the studio by a panel of guests, including STV’s special correspondent Bernard Ponsonby, to provide reaction and analysis.

Linda Grimes Douglas, STV’s head of news and current affairs, said: “Scotland’s next leader will be declared in just over a month, but before the voting begins it’s crucial that the people of Scotland are given the opportunity to cut through the noise and hear directly from the three prospective candidates about the direction in which they intend to steer the country.

“With Colin Mackay at the helm, this in-depth and robust debate will explore the most important issues facing the country today, to help inform SNP members and the wider public ahead of what’s set to be a significant moment in Scotland’s history.”

Live televised debates will also be held by BBC Scotland, Sky News and Channel Four in the coming days.

Who picks the leader?

SNP members will take part in a two-week vote to choose their party’s new leader from March 13.

The winner, who will replace Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister, will be named on March 27.

The election uses the single transferable vote system, meaning members will rank Forbes, Yousaf and Regan in their order of preference.

However, they can choose to select just one or two candidates if they wish.

After the ballot closes, first-preference votes on all ballot papers are tallied up. If someone has 50% plus one vote, they win.

If not, the third-placed candidate is eliminated and second-preference votes are then added to the remaining contenders’ totals, which should give one of them a majority.

What happens next?

Once the new SNP leader is elected, Nicola Sturgeon will tender her resignation to the King.

MSPs will then gather in the Holyrood chamber to vote for the next First Minister, with the winner (almost certainly the new SNP leader) being recommended to Charles III by the parliament’s presiding officer.

Once the formality of being approved by the monarch is completed, Scotland’s most senior judges will then swear in the next FM at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Insight Bernard Ponsonby Special correspondent

Humza Yousaf, Ash Regan and Kate Forbes will not face an audience of sympathetic activists.

Nor will they be invited to give a clip for the news, the kind of soundbite which does not come with a serious interrogation of the content of the answer.

For the first time, nerves may feature as they realise that over an hour of live television in a demanding format could sink their campaign with a slip of the tongue.

A clear frontrunner may emerge, or a candidacy could be sent to the knackers’ yard.

STV’s political editor Colin Mackay will ensure that answers which evade or are platitudinous, or embrace a love of waffle, will be punctured by a simple act of interrogation.

And since the format allows the candidates to cross-examine one another, they have a number of questions to address by way of preparation, not least how attack-focused they want or need to be.

SNP members looking on will see all three taken out of a comfort zone and placed in the kind of environment every First Minister has to contend with on a daily basis.

Read Bernard Ponsonby’s full debate preview here.

Scotland’s Next First Minister: The STV Debate is on STV and the STV Player at 9pm on Tuesday, March 7, with live reaction and analysis on the STV News website.  

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