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Our questions, our answers | Who to lead Scotland to independence?



The SNP is actively seeking its new leader, following the surprise resignation of Nicola Sturgeon in February.

Put me in perspective: SNP, is it for “precarious neurological syndrome”?

But no. You do not understand at all. We are talking here about the Scottish National Party (Scottish National Party) in power in Scotland since 2007. The political party has been in disarray since its leader – and therefore the First Minister – announced her resignation on February 15th.

Disappointment, but why?

Because no one saw it coming. And because Nicola Sturgeon has led this British nation brilliantly since the post-referendum of 2014, lost by the Yes camp. He was a formidable opponent for London and his popularity in Scotland was relatively intact after eight years in power – a record.


Nicola Sturgeon announced her resignation on February 15.

Why quit, then?

Tiredness. His many tussles with the British government eventually exhausted him. His recent bill to make it easier to change gender identity in Scotland has come under heavy criticism, including internally. The main interested party declared that she no longer had “all the energy” necessary to continue the fight and denounced the “brutality” of modern political life.

And what happens now? Scotland no longer has a Prime Minister?

Exactly. The SNP is currently in the midst of a leadership race. The person who will succeed Stugeon is to be chosen on March 27 by party members, an estimated 75,000 to 90,000.

A race for leadership! That we like! Who is a candidate?

They are three. Kate Forbes. Ash Regan. Humza Yousaf. All separatists. But very different profiles.

Left profile or right profile?

The good joke… but not stupid. Kate Forbes is clearly more to the right. Her young age (32) does not prevent her from being very conservative, due to her membership of the Free Church of Scotland, which rigorously interprets the Bible. This fervent Christian says she is against same-sex marriage and considers children born out of wedlock a mistake. She obviously does not support the reform on the change of gender identity of Nicola Sturgeon, of which she was also the Minister of Finance.

And Ash Regan?

Same conservative leanings. The 48-year-old former Community Safety Minister walked out of government in October to protest the change in gender identity reform. On the sovereignty side, she is one of the “impatients”, unlike her two opponents, who are more “step-by-step”. She proposes that the next regional elections take the place of a referendum and that Scotland unilaterally declare its independence in the event of victory of the SNP.

And what about Humza Yousaf?

Thirty seven years. Current Minister of Health. Muslim. Unlike his two opponents, Humza Yousaf claims to be more of the center left of the SNP and defends tooth and nail the controversial reform on gender identity. As such, he is presented as the natural successor of Nicola Sturgeon. He is supported by several party caciques, including the Ministers of International Development, Transport and Public Health.

So he’s the favourite?

Not necessarily. Mr. Yousaf has strong support in the party. Butme Forbes seems most popular with independence voters and with Scots as a whole. According to a poll published last Sunday, 33% of Scots support her, against 18% of support for Humza Yousaf and 10% for Ash Regan. The members of the SNP, the only ones entitled to vote, will have to take these data into account.

“The 64 million question, for the SNP and the movement, is which candidate can hold both the party and the cause”, underlines DJ Johnston-Smith, former candidate of the SNP, joined in Edinburgh.

In short, the SNP is at a crossroads…

Existential crisis, let’s say. The independence cause (its raison d’être since its founding in 1934) was revived by Brexit, which was opposed by 62% of Scots in 2016. Nicola Sturgeon had the ambition to organize a second referendum. But his departure leaves a big void, while support for sovereignty peaks at around 40% (YouGov poll). Regardless of his qualities, the person who will succeed Mme Sturgeon “will have big shoes to fill,” says DJ Johnston-Smith.

But for Iain Whyte, an active member of the SNP who embodies a new generation of sovereignists, this leadership race should rather be seen as an opportunity to “reset” and “revitalize” a destabilized formation.

“For me, there is neither crisis nor panic, concludes Mr. Whyte, 28 years. The question is not whether independence will ever happen, but rather when it will happen. Some want to get there faster than others. But it is inevitable. Mme Sturgeon did what she had to do. The movement is not defined by a single individual…”

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