Kate Forbes yesterday accused Humza Yousaf of “desperate spin” in an SNP leadership television debate after he accused her of cosying up to big business and lurching to the Right on economic policy.

Mr Yousaf attacked Ms Forbes over her plan to pause a controversial deposit return scheme for drinks containers while business concerns about the costs are addressed.

He argued this would let big companies like Coca-Cola “off the hook”. He claimed these major groups were responsible for around 90% of the litter on the streets and beaches.

But a furious Ms Forbes hit back, pointing out she was responding to an audience member who had a small business and was worried the scheme would bankrupt it.

Their latest clash came in a BBC debate by the three candidates broadcast the day after SNP members received their ballot papers to select Nicola Sturgeon’s successor.

The winner will be announced on March 27.


All candidates - the third one being Ash Regan - claimed they could achieve independence within five years if they become First Minister, with Ms Forbes pointing to polls indicating she would be best placed to convince "no" voters.

However, whoever wins the contest will have much work to do.

Recent polls have put support for independence at broadly the same level as it was when Ms Sturgeon succeeded Alex Salmond after the referendum in 2014, which saw Scottish voters reject independence by 55% to 45%.

Mr Yousaf, the Health Secretary and establishment favourite for the post, has attempted to paint Ms Forbes as Right-wing and himself as the Sturgeon continuity candidate.

But the Finance Secretary gave him short shrift, saying: “Small businesses need support. They are the backbone of the Scottish economy.

“Support them - that has nothing to do with being Right-wing. That is about standing up for Scottish industry, Scottish business, Scottish jobs and, ultimately, those in poverty in Scotland but need our support.


“That is not a lurch to the Right. That is about representing the people of Scotland on the issues that matter to Scotland.”

The Telegraph says her response was met with applause from the audience at the Edinburgh debate, which consisted of both SNP supporters and people who backed other parties.

She was responding to audience member Leigh Payne, who runs a small craft spirit company and disclosed she was an SNP member.

SNP and Green ministers want to boost recycling rates by forcing buyers to pay an extra 20p deposit on single-use drinks containers, including cans and bottles, that would be refunded when returned.

Meanwhile, the SNP has refused to confirm exactly how many party members will be able to take part in the leadership vote.

Westminster leader Stephen Flynn told the BBC yesterday that he had "no idea" and that "I think the last time I heard it was about 100,000".


The SNP said its membership had reached 125,000 by 2019, but the Electoral Commission put the figure at 104,000 two years later.

The Mail on Sunday has reported that polling firm Mi-Voice, which is overseeing the leadership vote, has been given the names of just 78,000 members by the SNP.

If this is correct, it would suggest that the party may have lost nearly 50,000 members over the past four years.

The newspaper also reported that Mi-Voice expected about 54,000 members to actually submit a vote.

Polling expert Prof Sir John Curtice has said Mr Yousaf currently appears to be the most popular of the three candidates among the SNP members who will be picking the new leader, with Ms Forbes second and Ms Regan third.

But Ms Forbes seems to be more popular than her rivals with both SNP voters and the public as a whole, Sir John said.

He added that it "looks as though there is plenty to play for" and that "maybe everything could turn on the unknown second preferences of Ms Regan's supporters".

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