Yousaf won't publicly back any candidate as he calls for SNP party unity

Favourites John Swinney and Kate Forbes are not expected to declare if they are in the running today

Yousaf won’t publicly back any candidate as he calls for unity ahead of SNP leadership contest STV News

Humza Yousaf has called for “unity” within his party as the SNP prepares to select his replacement.

The First Minister said he would not publicly back anyone who throws their hat in the ring. Although Kate Forbes and John Swinney are favourites to replace him, neither have confirmed if they are standing.

Yousaf said: “I would say to supporters of any candidate that we will gain nothing if we talk each other down. The only people who benefit from that are our opponents.”

He also urged people to judge the candidates on their policies instead of religious beliefs.

“What people will judge any potential candidate on are their policies, what they stand for, what they will advocate, what they might end up moving away from in terms of policy,” he said. “That is the right discussion to have – not whether somebody of faith can be first minister.”

In the interview with the BBC, Yousaf also said the Bute House Agreement with the Scottish Greens was “strained” and the Scottish Green’s co-leader Patrick Harvie’s comments on child gender services in Scotland had upset some in the SNP.

Harvie has questioned the scientific evidence of the Cass review on NHS England services, which also saw health boards in Scotland pause new prescriptions of puberty blockers.

Yousaf said: “I made it very clear what my position and the government’s position was on the Cass review, but it is fair to say that of course those comments that were made by Patrick Harvie on the Sunday Show did upset a lot in my group.

“We co-operated well with the Greens for almost three years on a number of issues but it was clearly becoming strained – the Bute House Agreement.”

Yousaf said he thought it was “a matter of days or weeks” until the powersharing deal with the Greens came to an end, however he said: “But I accept fully the manner in which it was done clearly caused upset and therefore I’ve paid the price of that.”

A Scottish Greens spokesman said: “The First Minister took the decision to end the Bute House Agreement, and it is right that he has taken responsibility and resigned.

“The Scottish Greens will work positively and constructively from opposition, as we have before, and are committed to delivering on our vision of a fairer, greener and more equal future in an independent Scotland.

“We hold no ill will toward Humza Yousaf, and wish him and his family well in the next chapter of their lives.”

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