A NEW political era begins today in Scotland as the final first minister to have entered Holyrood at the start of devolution leaves the spotlight. 

Accompanying Nicola Sturgeon’s departure will be the arrival of the youngest ever first minister, as either Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, 37, or Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, 32, replaces her. 

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The winner will be the first person from an ethnic minority or the second women to hold the post. Both hopefuls have young families – another first for Bute House. 

With the SNP leadership contest set to go down to the wire, the two frontrunners continued to appeal for votes yesterday, insisting they were best placed to deliver independence, while the underdog, Ash Regan, appeared to have accepted defeat. 

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After a frequently bitter and chaotic contest that has shattered the SNP’s reputation for discipline and unity, the ballot of 72,000 party members will close at noon, with the result expected around 2pm. 

The victor will be confirmed by MSPs tomorrow and sworn in at the Court of Session on Wednesday.

In a sign of nerves in both camps, both Mr Yousaf and Ms Forbes issued eleventh hour campaign videos in search of members who had yet to use their online ballots. 

The Herald:


Ms Forbes claimed many members were still deciding how to vote, or “sitting out this election”. 

She said: “I know from speaking to members across the country that lots of you are still deciding what to do. So my message to you is simple – I need your vote, Scotland needs your vote. Change happens only when we vote for it. Independence happens only if we win. 

“And it is clear that in this election, I am the only candidate who can deliver that ultimate prize for our nation.” 

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Mr Yousaf, the establishment favourite in the race, hammered home his key themes – continued joint government with the Greens, standing up to Westminster over-reach, building a team to deliver independence and continuing the SNP’s “progressive agenda”, a dig at Ms Forbes’s socially conservative views on gay marriage and abortion. 

Whoever wins inherits a divided party, a government beset by policy problems, and a stalled and fractious independence movement. 

The next party leader also faces a difficult General Election next year. Holyrood’s opposition parties said whoever won would be a letdown. 

Ms Sturgeon, like Donald Dewar, Henry McLeish, Jack McConnell and Alex Salmond before her, was one of the “Class of 1999”, the MSPs elected in Holyrood’s first wave. 

Mr Yousaf was elected in 2011, Ms Forbes and Ms Regan in 2016. 

Ms Sturgeon yesterday said she would need to “rewire how my brain works” when her eight years as First Minister ends and is planning to write a book about her career.