SNP leadership latest – Humza Yousaf far ahead in MP and MSP endorsements

Voting in the SNP leadership election opened at noon on 13 March, with the race to replace Nicola Sturgeon now heading into its final week.

Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf, finance secretary Kate Forbes and former community safety minister Ash Regan are all on the ballot paper, having successfully reached the minimum of 100 nominations from at least 20 local party branches to advance to the membership vote stage.

The SNP party membership will vote using the single transferable vote (STV) system, with a winner to be announced on March 27.

There has been a push from all three candidates to secure the backing of key MSPs and MPs as they look to sure up their support within the party ahead of the 27th. has broken down the key backers of each candidate at this stage in the race

The standing of MP and MSP endorsements as of 20 March 2023 is:

Humza Yousaf – 19 MPs & 34 MSPs

Kate Forbes – 4 MPs & 10 MSPs

Ash Regan – 1 MP & 0 MSPs

Yet to declare for any candidate – 20 MPs & 17 MSPs

Latest development: Patricia Gibson, MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, endorses Kate Forbes.

Return to this page for updates as the race plays out.

Humza Yousaf 

Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf has emerged as the SNP “continuity candidate” in the race to succeed Nicola Sturgeon. 

Among his high-profile supporters are current Westminster group leader and deputy leader Stephen Flynn and Mhairi Black, as well as two former SNP leaders at Westminster: Ian Blackford and Angus Robertson.

Deputy first minister John Swinney is another key backer.

Announcing his support on 12 March, John Swinney, who was viewed as a potential successor to Sturgeon before declining to run, outlined: “We now need to choose a party leader who will complete our journey to independence and I believe that person should be Humza Yousaf”.

He added: “I think Humza is best paced to lead our party because he will strengthen the SNP as a force for progressive change in Scottish politics. He will govern effectively by using the partnership that we enjoy with the Scottish Green Party”.

Humza Yousaf has served as the cabinet secretary for health and social care at Holyrood since May 2021.

Announcing her support early in the race, deputy Westminster leader Mhairi Black said that Yousaf is the only candidate willing “stand up for our Scottish Parliament’s democratic right to legislate free from Westminster interference”. 

Black was a referring to Yousaf’s commitment to challenge the UK government over its veto of Holyrood’s controversial gender recognition reforms. Both Forbes and Regan have been critical of the gender reform legislation passed by Holyrood, with Regan quitting her post in the Scottish government in order to vote against it.

Among the other MPs backing Yousaf are the SNP’s Westminster home affairs spokesperson Alison Thewliss, justice spokesperson Anne McLaughlin and levelling up spokesperson Chris Stephens.

Yousaf also counts on the support of MPs Chris Law, Amy Callaghan, Stewart Hosie, Stuart MacDonald, Anne McLaughlin, Anum Qaisar, Tommy Sheppard, Owen Thompson and Pete Wishart. 

Key MSP backers include environment minister Màiri McAllan, who was considering a run for the top job herself, as well as Neil Gray, another individual touted by some as a potential leadership candidate. 

Other prominent backers at Holyrood are Scottish social justice secretary Shona Robison, who navigated the controversial gender reform recognition bill through parliament; education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville; and Michael Matheson, who serves as secretary for net zero, energy and transport. 

Full list of backers:

19 MPs

  • Hannah Bardell, MP for Livingston
  • Mhairi Black, MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South 
  • Ian Blackford, MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber
  • Kirsty Blackman, MP for Aberdeen North
  • Deidre Brock, MP for Edinburgh North and Leith
  • Amy Callaghan, MP for East Dunbartonshire
  • Angela Crawley, MP for Lanark and Hamilton East
  • Martin Docherty-Hughes, MP for West Dunbartonshire
  • Stephen Flynn, MP for Aberdeen South
  • Stewart Hosie, MP for Dundee East
  • Chris Law, MP for Dundee West
  • Stuart McDonald, MP for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East
  • Anne McLaughlin, MP for Glasgow North East
  • Anum Qaisar, MP for Airdrie and Shotts
  • Tommy Sheppard, MP for Edinburgh East
  • Chris Stephens, MP for Glasgow South West
  • Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central
  • Owen Thompson, MP for Midlothian
  • Pete Wishart, MP for Perth and North Perthshire

34 MSPs

  • Karen Adam, MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast
  • Alasdair Allan, MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar
  • Clare Adamson, MSP for Motherwell and Wishaw
  • Tom Arthur, MSP for Renfrewshire South
  • Graeme Dey, MSP for Angus South
  • Natalie Don, MSP for Renfrewshire North and West
  • Bob Doris, MSP for Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn
  • James Dornan, MSP for Glasgow Cathcart
  • Jackie Dunbar, MSP for Aberdeen Donside
  • Joe FitzPatrick, MSP for Dundee City West
  • Jenny Gilruth, MSP for Mid Fife and Glenrothes
  • Mairi Gougeon, MSP for Angus North and Mearns
  • Neil Gray, MSP for Airdrie and Shotts
  • Emma Harper, MSP for South Scotland
  • Jamie Hepburn, MSP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth
  • Michael Matheson, MSP for Falkirk West
  • Ben Macpherson, MSP for Edinburgh Northern and Leith
  • Màiri McAllan, MSP for Clydesdale
  • Christina McKelvie, MSP for Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse
  • Paul McLennan, MSP for East Lothian
  • Marie McNair, MSP for Clydebank and Milngavie
  • Jenni Minto, MSP for Argyll and Bute
  • Audrey Nicoll, MSP for Aberdeen South and North Kincardine
  • Angus Robertson, MSP for Edinburgh Central
  • Shona Robison, MSP for Dundee City East
  • Emma Roddick, MSP for Highlands and Islands
  • Shirley-Anne Somerville, MSP for Dunfermline
  • Kevin Stewart, MSP for Aberdeen Central
  • Kaukab Stewart, MSP for Glasgow Kelvin
  • Collette Stevenson, MSP for East Kilbride
  • John Swinney, MSP for Perthshire North
  • Maree Todd, MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross
  • Evelyn Tweed, MSP for Stirling
  • Elena Whitham, MSP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley
Kate Forbes

Kate Forbes has enjoyed a troubled start to her leadership bid, coming under for her comments on abortion and same-sex marriage. The finance secretary is a member of the Free Church of Scotland, which follows a strict interpretation of the Bible.

As a result of her position on such social issues, the finance secretary lost a number of key backers. These include MSPs Gillian Martin, Richard Lochhead, Tom Arthur, Clare Haughey and MP Drew Hendry, 

Announcing that she was withdrawing her support for Forbes, Gillian Martin tweeted: “We must be full throated in our support of equal marriage. No if or buts. I won’t be supporting Kate’s campaign on that basis. I wish her well – she’s extremely talented. But I have red lines. And this is one”.

Serving as finance secretary at Holyrood since February 2020, Kate Forbes has come under fire for her comments on abortion and same-sex marriage.

However, Forbes has also retained the support of key elected officials. Among these include: gender reform rebels Michelle Thomson, Ruth Maguire, Annabelle Ewing and Jim Fairlie, as well as other MSPs David Torrance, Siobhan Brown and Ivan McKee, who works under Forbes at Holyrood as business minister

UK parliamentarians Douglas Chapman and Angus MacNeil also continue to support Forbes. 

Alex Neil, a former SNP MSP who served as health secretary for two years in Alex Salmond’s government, is another backer of Forbes’ candidacy. Neil has been a prominent critic of Nicola Sturgeon and has emerged as a thorn in the side of Forbes’ chief rival Yousaf. The former health secretary said he remembers Yousaf asking to be allowed to skip Holyrood’s vote on same-sex marriage in 2014 because of pressure from religious leaders opposed the reform.

Mr Neil, who led the equal marriage legislation through Holyrood, told The Herald: “The truth is he asked to be ‘skipped’ because he was under pressure and he then arranged a ministerial meeting, and that was his cover for not voting, and if he says anything different it’s not true”.

Full list of backers:

4 MPs

  • Douglas Chapman, MP for Dunfermline and West Fife
  • Patricia Gibson, MP for North Ayrshire and Arran
  • Angus MacNeil, MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar
  • Carol Monaghan, MP for Glasgow North West

10 MSPs

  • Colin Beattie, MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh
  • Siobhian Brown, MSP for Ayr
  • Annabelle Ewing, MSP for Cowdenbeath
  • Fergus Ewing, MSP for Inverness and Nairn
  • Jim Fairlie, MSP for Perthshire South and Kinross-shire
  • Christine Grahame, MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale
  • Ruth Maguire, MSP for Cunninghame South
  • Ivan McKee, MSP for Glasgow Provan
  • Michelle Thomson, MSP for Falkirk East
  • David Torrance, MSP for Kirkcaldy
Ash Regan 

Ash Regan is an outsider candidate to replace Nicola Sturgeon, with the former communities minister lagging behind in the polls and with relatively few declared backers. 

Regan’s most prominent backer is Joanna Cherry MP, the chair of the joint committee on human rights at Westminster. She was the SNP’s justice spokesperson before being sacked from the front bench for her outspoken opposition to gender recognition reforms.

Announcing her support, Cherry said: “I’m proud to support Ash given her solid left wing credentials … and the courage and leadership she has shown in standing up for the rights of women and girls”.

Full list of backers:

1 MP

  • Joanna Cherry, MP for Edinburgh South West

0 MSPs

Yet to declare their support

Among the prominent SNP officials yet to declare their support are Keith Brown, depute leader of the SNP, and current first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has also refused to declare her support for any of the candidates vying to replace her. 

Full list of those yet to declare:

20 MPs

  • Steven Bonnar, MP for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill
  • Alan Brown, MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun
  • Dr Lisa Cameron, MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow
  • Ronnie Cowan, MP for Inverclyde
  • Martyn Day, MP for Linlithgow and East Falkirk
  • Dave Doogan, MP for Angus
  • Allan Dorans, MP for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock
  • Marion Fellows, MP for Dunfermline West
  • Patrick Grady, MP for Glasgow North
  • Peter Grant, MP for Glenrothes
  • Drew Hendry, MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey – [WITHDREW SUPPORT FROM FORBES]
  • David Linden, MP for Glasgow East
  • Stewart McDonald, MP for Glasgow South
  • John McNally, MP for Falkirk
  • Gavin Newlands, MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North
  • John Nicolson, MP for Ochil and South Perthshire
  • Brendan O’Hara, MP for Argyll and Bute
  • Alyn Smith, MP for Stirling
  • Richard Thomson, MP for Gordon
  • Dr Phillips Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire

17 MSPs

  • George Adam, MSP for Paisley
  • Keith Brown, MSP for Clackmannanshire and Dunblane – (Declined to stand himself)
  • Stephanie Callaghan, MSP for Uddingston and Bellshill
  • Willie Coffey, MSP for Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley
  • Angela Constance, MSP for Almond Valley
  • Kenneth Gibson, MSP for Cunninghame North
  • Clare Haugey, MSP for Rutherglen
  • Fiona Hyslop, MSP for Linlithgow
  • Bill Kidd, Glasgow MSP for Anniesland
  • Richard Lochhead, MSP for Moray – [WITHDREW SUPPORT FROM FORBES]
  • Gordon MacDonald, MSP for Edinburgh Pentlands
  • Fulton MacGregor, MSP for Coatbridge and Chryston
  • Gillian Martin, MSP for Aberdeenshire East – [WITHDREW SUPPORT FROM FORBES]
  • Rona Mackay, MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden – (Retweeted anti-Regan tweets)
  • John Mason, MSP for Glasgow Shettleston
  • Stuart McMillan, MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde
  • Nicola Sturgeon, MSP for Glasgow Southside