NICOLA Sturgeon’s resignation gives the SNP an opportunity to show that the party’s “not out of ideas,” Humza Yousaf told activists at a hustings in Dumfries.

He said that the First Minister had been a “very dominant political force” and that had "not necessarily" allowed anybody else to come to the fore. 

His answer came as the three candidates were pushed on how the party treats its members. 

“It is my view that we have to harness all of the talent of our party, and there's huge amounts of talent in our membership," Mr Yousaf said.

The Herald:

“People in this room will come from different diversities and experiences and the leadership can learn from that.

"And this is not at all meant as a criticism of Nicola - I love her and respect her deeply - but, and she said this herself in her resignation statement, when you have one very dominant political force, it doesn't necessarily allow everybody else to come to the fore.

"And I think we've got an opportunity - as gutted as I am by Nicola resigning - we've got a real opportunity for others to come right to the fore and see the whole talent pool that exists in our party.”

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Mr Yousaf said the party structures were still adjusting to the influx of activists after the referendum in 2014 when membership numbers jumped from 20,000 to over 100,000.

“HQ hasn't adapted,” he said. “Our party, we haven't adapted. And that's not good.” 

Ash Regan told the members that often the party’s HQ would not answer her calls. 

“The membership of this party is what keeps this party going. Everybody's subs that they pay in and the fact that we leaflet. We are doing the fundraising and doing all these things and campaigning to get our elected members elected. 

“So basically, the party works for you. And I feel like that isn't the impression that people get.”

She said she would have some form of service level agreement to guarantee that the party would respond to their members within “a set period of time.”

The only real clash of the night came as the three discussed their approach to securing independence. 

The Herald:

Kate Forbes said it would be achieved only by persuading fellow citizens of the need to leave the UK. 

She said members voting in the leadership contest should ask themselves which of the three candidates do Unionists "fear the most?"

"Which plan do Unionists fear the most? Who has the potential to reach out and persuade the next 10,20, 30 per cent to vote for independence, because that is how we will deliver independence.”

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Mr Yousaf said he would make “every single election about the issue of independence.” 

“If I'm the leader of the SNP, every single election we fight, including the next general election will be fought on that demand for those Section 30 powers, the demand to repeal the undemocratic section 35. And when we get the powers of a referendum, on day one I will start the legislative process for an Independence Bill. 

The Herald:

Ms Regan later described the plans being put forward by her rivals as “wishy-washy.”

"Basically what we've been doing for the last few years is that we've been winning elections, and we've been using that as a mandate - or a moral mandate is probably the way I would differentiate it - to go and ask Westminster for a referendum. 

"And obviously, they're saying no, and they won't even set out under what circumstances they might say, yes.

"We know that that is just not going to happen, that route is shut down. So I think that seeking another moral mandate, as my two colleagues here are suggesting, I think it's a bit of a wishy-washy plan."

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She said every election going forward should contain a "permanent trigger point" where every vote for pro-independence parties would count as it it were a vote in a referendum. 

"I'm not suggesting that I'd be satisfied with 50% plus one, but I'm just saying that is where the majority would happen."

The three candidates will face off again on Tuesday evening in the first televised debate of the contest.