Kate Forbes has defended launching a scathing critique of her own government and cabinet colleague during Tuesday’s SNP leadership debate, saying the party is “big enough” to hold “robust discussions”.
The finance secretary joined Ash Regan and Humza Yousaf at the STV studio in Glasgow for the first televised head to head of the contest.
During the debate, Forbes attacked the record of the Scottish health secretary, saying he had presided over record waiting times in the NHS.
She said change is needed within the SNP, adding that “more of the same” in government “is an acceptance of mediocrity”.
Some in the party expressed shock at her comments, with senior SNP MP Pete Wishart calling the debate “thoroughly dispiriting”.
He added: “The whole party deserves so much better than this.”
MSP Emma Roddick said she was proud of the party’s record in government.
She tweeted: “It’s why we’re all here and as close as we are to independence.
“Was utterly bizarre to watch an SNP MSP defend SNP policy on national TV against a fellow member of cabinet. Wouldn’t have believed it a month ago.”
Forbes defended her comments, saying “robust” debate is a good thing for the party.
She told STV News: “Humza made a point last night that we needed to have robust, frank exchanges and I think that’s what we saw last night.
“We are in an election contest, not just for the leader of the SNP, but for the first minister of Scotland.
“The successful candidate will need to engage in far more robust exchanges with the UK Government, with the opposition and I think last night was a test of competence, of grit and determination and of ability to perform under pressure.”
Forbes said that while the SNP has had 15 years of “successful” governments under “brilliant” leaders it now needs to discuss the next 15 years of the party.
“I think the SNP is big enough to create the space for robust discussions about what the future is for independence, for the cost of living and for poverty,” she said.
“If we can’t have those robust exchanges, and do what we have always done, I will question how we can really grapple with the new issues that are emerging.”
Forbes rejected accusations that her attacks on the SNP’s record in government could damage the party.
“What I am hearing from SNP members is that they want a robust, grown-up debate about what the future holds,” she said.
“If we don’t have that robust conversation about the road to independence, about the cost of living crisis and about the future of our public services then we are never going to be facing the challenges with honesty and candour or come up with the solutions and plans of actions.
“Ultimately, I want the SNP to be successful for the next few decades and I want to deliver independence and that is going to require robust discussions now and I think the party can accommodate that.”