SNP-Hustings: Forbes tells Greens they must put economy first

While the tone of today’s debate was considerably calmer than Tuesday night’s televised exchange, a clear disagreement emerged between the candidates over the future of the Bute House deal signed in 2021.

Ms Forbes, the Finance Secretary, has underscored her vision of increasing Scotland’s prosperity to reduce poverty, but questioned whether the Greens would share her view of putting the economy “front and centre”.

She said she had “no doubt about the challenges of a minority government” and pointed out that in the past she worked with the Greens in budget negotiations in the last parliament when the SNP ruled without a majority.

But she added: “I really think that in this election we need to get a handle on economic prosperity. So obviously when it came to the Bute House agreement, one of the areas that was excluded was the economy.

“So I think there would have to be a conversation. I’m willing to work with the Greens and the question for them is if they would be willing to work with me on putting that economic prosperity front and center because I think that’s the only way out of poverty to eliminate?”

Ash Regan, the former community security minister, took an even stronger stance against going ahead with the deal.

“I am not ready to join a coalition at any cost. You know, I think coalitions can be good and work, but not at any price. So I’m not afraid to operate in a minority government, if it comes to that I would take up that challenge,” she said.

In contrast, Health Minister Humza Yousaf warned strongly of the implications of the deal’s failure, saying it would mean the end of the independence majority in parliament and difficulties in securing support from other parties to pass legislation.

“If the first act of the new First Minister is to reject and tear up the agreement with the only other pro-independence party in the Scottish Parliament. This is not a unit. That will not advance our cause. That won’t help us with independence,” he said.

The three candidates had previously called for party unity after extremely heated personal arguments in the TV debate last night.

Mr Yousaf, Ms Forbes and Ms Regan all tried to strike a more positive note at the recent hustings, held in Johnstone and chaired by former Health Secretary Jeane Freeman.

On Tuesday night, Ms Forbes openly attacked Mr Yousaf’s record as minister and even suggested she might not appoint him back to his health role if she became first minister.

Mr Yousaf, in turn, accused Ms Forbes of “leaving us about £600m short” in budget talks with Rishi Sunak when he was chancellor and claimed she was planning to pull the SNP to the right.

But tonight, in his opening speech, the health secretary said he would be “relentlessly positive”, saying any “mud fight” and “personal attacks” would only benefit the party’s opponents.

He added: “Let me make a promise and an absolute promise. And you hold me accountable for this promise that I will not say anything negative about other candidates.”

He went on to say that party members are “rightly proud” of the SNP’s record in government.

“It’s not a mediocre record. It’s a record we should be proud of. You should be proud that we have abolished tuition fees, you should be proud that we have the pioneering Scottish child payment.

“You should be proud of the baby box. You should be proud of the personal and nurturing care. You should be proud that in every round we have the weakest and poorest. Firstly, you should be proud of the legacy of Nicola Sturgeon because she has done an incredible job for our movement, for our party and for our country,” he said.

Ms Forbes also underscored a message of unity, adding that it does not mean “oneness”.

She told party members: “The SNP has always been successful when we were united, but your unity is not uniformity. And in this campaign, I think it’s an opportunity to reconsider what steps are needed to get to independence, because.” This campaign is about independence, it’s about who is and will be best equipped has the best plan to lead us to independence, and independence is not an end in itself.

She added: “We are united while creating space for debate and discussion. And the last thing I’m going to say before I stop is that it’s only going to get there together. What a team, what a family. And my friends and colleagues on This platform has great talent. Each of our members brings talent and skills as party members.”

Ms Regan added: “I think we need to heal the cracks in our own party. I think we’ve had some divisions lately and I think we need to reach out and unite and inspire the broader independence movement too, because I think it’s just a group, you know this really big group, right across Scotland, acting as one, that we’re going to be able to make these really strong arguments. SNP-Hustings: Forbes tells Greens they must put economy first

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