No ‘existential crisis’ within SNP amid leadership battle, insists Flynn

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Stephen Flynn has rejected claims the SNP is facing an “existential crisis” amid infighting within the leadership contest.

The SNP’s Westminster leader appealed to Nicola Sturgeon’s replacement to unite the party when the race ends in two weeks.

Ash Regan, Kate Forbes and Humza Yousaf are vying to become the party’s next leader, with the vote having opened to SNP members on Monday.

In the latest televised debate, on Sky News, front-runners Mr Yousaf and Ms Forbes clashed over their public support.

He said: “No, no, I don’t think there is an existential crisis at all.

“Of course, there’s the wider issue here of the fact that there is quite clearly disagreement in discussion within the party.

“But it’s incumbent upon a new leader once they’re in place to bring everyone together.”

Defending the public disagreements between the candidates – which have included criticisms of social views and Government performances, he added: “I think it is inevitable when you’re in a leadership contest, no matter which party it is, there’s going to be differences of opinion.

“What I would hope for is when we get on the other side of this, once the contest has concluded in a couple of weeks, that we can come together and move forward together.

Stephen Flynn
Stephen Flynn said the new SNP leader will have to unite the party (House of Commons/PA)

Mr Flynn also rejected claims he – along with the SNP ‘establishment’ – had endorsed Mr Yousaf amid concern over his lower public rating.

It follows back and forth between the candidates over who is more popular with the public.

A Sky News poll released on Monday found 44% of respondents think Mr Yousaf would be a bad leader, compared to 39% for Ms Regan and 36% for Ms Forbes.

Speaking to the PA news agency at a campaign visit in Dundee on Tuesday, Mr Yousaf said: “It was a lively debate.

“Again, we were challenging each other quite robustly on policy.

“I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for both my fellow colleagues in this race.

“Ballots have now come out, the majority of members I think are likely to end up voting quite early so these TV debates are really important.”

He said polling figures showed his support had “dramatically increased” among SNP voters, while Kate Forbes’ had moved in the other direction.

He acknowledged that he and his opponents’ approval ratings are a long way behind that of Nicola Sturgeon, adding: “What we’re trying to do is build upon that legacy.

“In three weeks I’ve also quadrupled my support among the Scottish public.

“If I’ve been able to do that in three weeks, I believe that bodes well for the next three months and even the next three years.”

During the live Sky debate, Ms Forbes said: “On the polling, I don’t think that’s where you’re particularly strong.

“I have not only got net positive ratings, I have actually got higher net positive ratings than either of the opposition leaders. That is what matters for an election winner.”

Mr Yousaf replied: “I accept we have to reach out to No (to independence) voters but it is so important that we don’t lose our own supporters, and the way we do that is by not abandoning our progressive agenda.”

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