Kate Forbes has defended her performance in an SNP leadership TV debate, saying “robust” exchanges are important.
The Scottish Finance Secretary said any future party leader will need to show “mettle” to take on the Conservatives at Westminster.
During the debate on STV, she launched a stinging attack on her rival Humza Yousaf’s record in Government.
In a section which saw the candidates cross-examine each other, Ms Forbes told him: “You were a transport minister and the trains were never on time, when you were justice secretary the police were stretched to breaking point, and now as health minister we’ve got record-high waiting times.
“What makes you think you can do a better job as first minister?”
She said she would rethink the Scottish Government’s proposals to curb alcohol advertising if elected first minister.
Ms Forbes – who is currently on maternity leave from her ministerial role – has said a Scottish government she runs would take a number of different policy directions.
She said: “I think the public and SNP members want to see somebody who’s got the guts to recognise what needs to change and also recognises that we need to have a plan to deliver.
“Last night was all about having the candour and the honesty to say more of the same is not what Scotland needs.
“If any SNP leader and first minister is going to be taking on the Tories in Westminster, for example, they need to have the mettle and the courage to do that.
Ms Forbes added she would still be happy to serve in a cabinet led by Mr Yousaf, or have him serve in one led by herself.
She said Mr Yousaf is an “exceptional guy” and that the SNP will still be a “family” at the end of the leadership contest.
She told the PA news agency: “I think it does the people of Scotland a service and SNP voters a service if we can approach these debates with frankness, robustness and honesty.”
Saying the SNP has 100,000 members, she added: “We are big enough to be able to make space for these debates and we’ll still be a family afterwards.”
She stressed the importance of the whisky industry to Scotland, saying curbs on alcohol advertising would have a “huge impact” on its tourism work.
Alcohol misuse is a “really serious issue”, she said, arguing there are other ways of tackling it.
The Scottish Government is currently consulting on changes to how alcohol is advertised, with proposals to ban sponsorships at sporting and live events.