KATE Forbes is the general public’s top choice for first minister and is neck-and-neck with Humza Yousaf among SNP voters, according to a new poll.

The survey for Channel 4 News gave the Finance Secretary an eight point lead among all Scots in the three-way race to replace Nicola Sturgeon.  

The poll of more than 1,500 Scottish voters, conducted on Monday and Tuesday this week, was released ahead of the second televised hustings this evening.

It showed almost one in three of the public (32 per cent) placing Kate Forbes as the best First Minister of the three prospective candidates.

Of those polled, 24% put Mr Yousaf as the best First Minister, with Ash Regan at 8%.

Mr Yousaf was more popular among young voters and Ms Forbes more popular among the over 55s.

Significantly, the over 55s are the biggest cohort among SNP members.

Amongst SNP voters from the 2021 Holyrood election, one in three (33%) said Mr Yousaf would make the best First Minister, while another 32% said the same of Mr Forbes.  

However one in four members of the public said none of the candidates would be the best FM.

Hosted by Krishnan Guru-Murthy, tonight’s 30-minute head-to-head on Channel 4 will involve set topics and challenges between the three leaders on the NHS, cost of living, independence, economy, gender and sexual identity, and religious freedoms.

A  Savanta poll of SNP members released last week put Mr Yousaf narrowly ahead of Ms Forbes, with 31% backing the health secretary, 25% for the finance secretary and 11% for former community safety minister Ms Regan.

MSP Jim Fairlie, who is bcking Ms Forbes, said: "The recent polling shows that only Kate can win the public vote. The wider electorate views Kate as a trusted and talented leader with a track record of delivery.

“It is no wonder that the opposition party leaders are running scared – which we saw at First Minister’s Questions.

“It is the SNP membership who will elect a new party leader - and they will want to elect an election-winner.

“Kate will not take a single vote for granted, and she will continue to make the case that she is the strongest candidate to deliver independence for Scotland.”

Mr Yousaf said: "This poll shows the momentum is firmly behind my positive campaign, built on the SNP's platform of progressive values.

"Having started the leadership race behind, it's great to see that more and more members of our SNP family are putting their trust in me as the voters' choice.

"Our party needs a Leader who will stand up to grubby  Westminster power grabs and help to grow support in our  independence movement to sustained majority levels. I am that Leader.

"Today's poll is another boost to my message of positivity, unity and strength. I'm the only candidate who has seen support and momentum grow each day as we approach ballots opening on Monday where I hope SNP
members will make me their first choice for First Minister.

"I'm looking forward to tonight's TV debate and to the rest of the campaign."