ALISTER Jack has called for “a reset” in the relationship between the Scottish and UK governments urging the new First Minister to "make devolution work" for people in Scotland as the SNP prepares to unveil a new party leader tomorrow.

Finance secretary Kate Forbes, health secretary Humza Yousaf and former community safety minister Ash Regan are vying to succeed Nicola Sturgeon who announced her resignation last month after more than eight years as SNP leader and First Minister.

The leadership contest has been bitter with the candidates fiercely criticising rivals’ records and rows erupting over transparency and party governance.

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Mr Jack, the Secretary of State for Scotland, issued the plea as the new SNP leader is announced tomorrow afternoon at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh.

The Conservative MP said he recognised there would be fundamental differences between him and the new SNP leader regarding their political outlook but that these "should not, must not, be an obstacle to us working together in the interests of Scottish families and businesses".

READ MORE: 'New First Minister must carry out a painful clear out in government'

He said: “After eight years of Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership, whoever wins has the chance to seize an opportunity to do things differently, to reset, and to make devolution work better for the people we serve.

“Too often in the past Holyrood ministers have sought conflict with Westminster, simply to further their goal of separation. That has sapped the energy, focus and resolve which should have been directed to improving education, tackling drugs deaths, and ensuring people have the reliable transport links they need."

The new SNP leader is expected to be elected as First Minister by MSPs in Holyrood on Tuesday and formally sworn into office in the Court of Session on Wednesday.

Relations soured considerably between the Scottish Government under Ms Sturgeon and the UK Governments under former Prime Ministers Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.

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Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has sought to strike a more harmonious working arrangement with Ms Sturgeon despite their fundamental differences on Scotland’s constitutional future and on Brexit and continued refusal to grant a section 30 order to hold a legally binding second independence referendum.

Both administrations worked closely together on establishing freeports in Scotland, enterprise zones designed to boost the economy of a region, and on city growth deals also aimed at encouraging investment.

Tensions also flared with Ms Sturgeon's administration over the UK Government's decision to stop the Gender Recognition Bill, passed in Holyrood in December, from becoming law.

UK ministers say the bill, designed to make it easier for transgender people to obtain a gender recognition certificate which legally formalises the acquired gender in which they live, encroached onto matters governed by the Equality Act, legislation reserved to Westminster.

The outgoing First Minister has said the veto on the bill should be legally challenged. The candidates running to succeed all have different views on the matter with Mr Yousaf in favour of a legal challenge, Ms Forbes favouring a compromise and Ms Regan opposed to court action.

“The Scottish Government stands at a crossroads, with a new First Minister being selected in the coming days. Whoever wins the leadership election tomorrow faces a fundamental choice which will define their time as First Minister,” said Mr Jack.

“It is fair to say that they and I will have fundamental political differences. But this should not, must not, be an obstacle to us working together in the interests of Scottish families and businesses."

He accused Holyrood ministers of stoking conflict with Westminster, “simply to further their goal of separation” and those actions had “sapped the energy, focus and resolve” which he said should have been directed to improving education, tackling drugs deaths, and ensuring people have the reliable transport links they need.

“But despite that, there are strong foundations on which to build. We can turn from confrontation to collaboration. We know we can achieve much more by working together than by pulling apart. These are not just warm words - we have the evidence to prove it,” he said.

“Our city and growth deal programme, now covering the whole of Scotland, sees the UK and Scottish governments working together to grow local economies, create jobs and invest in the future of our communities. Earlier this year we jointly announced two freeports for Scotland.

“Not only will they create exciting opportunities along the Firth of Forth and around the Cromarty Firth, but they will also make the whole country more competitive. Following the announcement at the Budget of new Innovation Zones, we have a chance to build on that partnership and develop proposals for Scotland.

“There are many other areas where we can and must work meaningfully together – including on transport, energy, and recycling – and the list goes on.

“As I said, the choice the new First Minister makes will define them. My advice to them is this - put the people of Scotland first.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie urged the new SNP leader to “clear out the rot” in the party.

Peter Murrell, Ms Sturgeon’s husband and the SNP’s long-serving chief executive, resigned on Saturday last week after the party was forced to admit it had 30,000 fewer members than claimed at the start of the race.

His resignation followed that of Murray Foote, the SNP’s head of communications at Holyrood, who stepped down from his role the previous evening after dismissing — he claimed in “good faith” — media stories over a rapidly declining membership as “drivel” on behalf of party headquarters.

Ms Sturgeon’s top advisor Liz Lloyd also announced her resignation after it emerged she was assisting Mr Yousaf’s campaign. She announced her decision to leave her role after Ms Regan’s team raised the matter with the head of the civil service. The aide insisted it was always her intention to leave government when Ms Sturgeon departed from the office of First Minister.

Scottish Labour sense an opportunity in the SNP’s internal strife and hope to lure some of its voters who may have become disillusioned with the divisions in Ms Sturgeon’s party to back them at the next general election expected before the end of 2024.

The party also seized on other negative headlines which have hit the SNP during Ms Sturgeon’s leadership including over its handling of money raised in 2017 and 2019 to fund an expected independence referendum campaign. Police are investigating the matter.

It has also faced questions about a £107,620 loan made by Mr Murrell to the party in 2021 “for working capital purposes”. The loan was not declared to the Electoral Commission until more than a year later, a breach of election finance rules.

The SNP has also been criticised over handling of sexual harassment complaints, including high-profile accusations the party failed to act on claims against the former leader of North Lanarkshire Council Jordan Linden.

Scottish Labour claimed the SNP’s “culture of secrecy” had affected the party’s record in government, citing the deaths of patients from infectious contracted at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and the ongoing crisis over the building of two new ferries.

“The next SNP leader needs to clear out the rot festering in this party,” said Ms Baillie.

“After 16 years in government the SNP have become arrogant and out-of-touch, with an increasingly loose relationship with the truth.

“In the party and in government we are seeing more and more proof of secrecy, spin and outright lies. Sunlight is the best disinfectant – we need real transparency and openness to end the culture of cover-up at the heart of the SNP.”

An SNP spokesman said: “The new SNP leader will be focused on delivering the priorities of the people of Scotland, including tackling the Tory cost of living crisis, improving public services, and strengthening the economy.

“The pro-Brexit, pro-cuts Labour Party has become little more than a pale imitation of the Tories under Keir Starmer. It’s completely out of touch with Scotland and has nothing to offer.

“With no change on offer at Westminster, its clear independence is the only way to escape Westminster control and deliver real change for a strong, fair and prosperous future.”

Responding to Mr Jack, an SNP spokesman said: “It’s a bit rich been lectured by a Westminster minister who has abused his power to override numerous decisions by the Scottish Parliament passed by all parties except the Tories - a party that has been rejected by the people of Scotland for nearly seven decades.”