The Regan campaign claims SNP HQ brought Yousaf supporters to hustings

They also raised concerns about the integrity of the ballot, claiming that dead people could end up voting in the contest.

The SNP said there was no evidence to support the arson claim and insisted the trial was “free, fair and well conducted”.

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Both Ash Regan and Kate Forbes have commented on the “Series Hustings attendees” with familiar faces attending more than one of the party events.

Speaking to journalists on Thursday night, the Finance Secretary said she was sure “there was a couple there who were in Inverness, Cumbernauld and Johnstone”.

“And since I did this hike myself, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone,” she added.

When asked why she thought that, Ms Forbes replied: “Either they’re enjoying the hustle and bustle to the fullest because of the entertainment and the nature of the debate, or they’re dying to have their various questions answered.”

Ms Regan also told reporters that “a lot of series contestants were at the hustings,” she said. “It is very important that the wider membership should have full confidence in the transparency of this process.”

A Regan campaign source later suggested party leaders did not expect the race to be so close and polls now put Mr Yousaf and Kate Forbes neck and neck with SNP supporters.

“They bus people in to support Humza, so it’s a little more difficult audience for everyone else,” they said.

“I don’t think they started that scared. I think they thought that was a crowning glory.

“They obviously saw Kate as the main challenger so she took all the heat and it was pretty nasty. And then he denies it has anything to do with him, but it’s from his campaign and we can all see it.

“So I think they’re trying to get as much support for him as possible. They’ve broken the rules on a number of occasions – nothing has been done about that – so they’re trying to take advantage of every possible advantage, which I don’t think is appropriate.”

The source said they were also concerned about “ghost memberships”.

They claimed the party “did not take enough care” to ensure the system was not abused by members who had left or voted on behalf of dead people.

Mr Yousaf said he too saw the same faces at some hustings. “I have to say it’s quite engaging because I suspect they keep hearing the same answers from us.”

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When asked if he thought there was an organized effort to get the same faces on hustings, he replied, “There’s been a lot of conspiracy theories in this campaign so far, but this is new to me.”

He also said that members should trust the process. “We have used it internally in many elections. I think if people want to get the excuses early on, they can. Let’s not go down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories, I don’t think that’s going to help anyone this campaign.

“Let’s stay positive, we’re all part of the SNP, let’s not ruin the SNP’s record on internal elections. We did well in these elections and have been using this system for many years.”

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Ms Forbes also distanced herself from the claims. “I know people were unhappy that Hustings sold out pretty quickly. But to be fair, you could watch all of the live streams if you wanted, from the comfort of your bedroom.”

She said she still believes in the integrity of the process.

An SNP spokesman said: “Whoever becomes the next SNP leader will do so as a result of a free, fair and well-conducted electoral process that conforms to best practices for such elections.”

They added: “All necessary safeguards are in place to protect the integrity of the vote.” The Regan campaign claims SNP HQ brought Yousaf supporters to hustings

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