Humza Yousaf has warned his rivals vying to become the next first minister of Scotland over any “foolish” move to push the party’s policy agenda to the ring wing.

The Health Secretary, who is battling with Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and MSP Ash Regan to replace Nicola Sturgeon in Bute House, has appealed for the SNP to continue its “progressive agenda” that he said had resulted in the party gaining popularity with Scots.

Yesterday, Ms Forbes criticised the Scottish Government for a lack of business sense, warning that policies have not been drawn up with industry needs in mind.

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While Ms Regan has criticised a flurry of policies, included the gender recognition reforms and accelerated the move away from North Sea oil and gas.

But Mr Yousaf told journalists he was “keen to continue our progressive agenda”.

He made the comments as he unveiled a policy to expand free childcare for all one and two-year-olds, a key pledge by Ms Sturgeon ahead of the 2021 Holyrood election.

Mr Yousaf added: “I believe in a wellbeing economy.

"I believe of course in economic growth, but not for its own sake, in order to make sure that people’s living standards increase, to make sure we can pay people properly so they can withstand the shocks of things like the Tory cost-of-living crisis.

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“I would say to any of my colleague in the leadership race that the SNP has managed to gain support to dizzying heights because of the progressive agenda that they have.

“I think it would be foolish to abandon that.”