KATE Forbes has insisted the SNP is "absolutely united" despite Humza Yousaf winning with just 52 per cent of the vote.

The Health Secretary failed to get elected on the first round of voting, picking up the support of less than half the members who used their ballots in the three-way race.

He only narrowly defeated the Finance Secretary after picking up a third of the second preference transfer votes from underdog Ash Regan. 

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf to be new First Minister

In his victory speech, Mr Yousaf called for the party’s bruised and battered activists to unite. 

“Over the last five weeks, we may have been competitors or supporters of different candidates, but from today, we are no longer team Humza, Ash or Kate, we are one team, and we will be the team, we will be the generation that delivers independence for Scotland.”

He said the party needed to heal divisions “quickly.”

“We have a job to do and as a party we are at our strongest when we are united, and what unites is our shared goal of delivering independence for our nation.”

The Herald:
Mr Yousaf said his first meeting as SNP leader would be with Ms Forbes and Ms Regan. 

“Of course, election contests by their nature can be challenging,” he told journalists and activists gathered in a Murrayfield function suite for the result. “They can open up some divisions, but I've got no doubt, not just faith in myself, but absolute faith in my colleague Ash and in Kate that we will come together.”

READ MORE: How Humza Yousaf secured victory in the SNP leadership contest 

Speaking to press after the results Ms Forbes said the part was "absolutely united."

"I will always say that unity is not uniformity. You have to create the space within the party, empower members now to continue to discuss and debate ideas, but we are united as one standing together to serve Scotland.“

“I don't think our party is divided,” she added. “But I think our party has been able to debate new ideas and discuss in some depth, the best way forward. And you'll have heard candidates throughout the contest, for example, perhaps amending some of their suggested approaches, because those ideas have been improved by the debate. 

“And I think that's what this contest shows, that there is a space in a broad church like the SNP for differences of opinion, but ultimately, we are now united and we unite behind Humza.” 

Mr Yousaf now needs to appoint his cabinet. He refused to give any hints about who might sit round the table in Bute House, but there is no shortage of supporters to choose from. 

He’d won the backing of 35 MSPs and 21 MPs, far more than either of his rivals.

Mr Yousaf yesterday described both Ms Forbes and Ms Regan as “exceptional talents” though stopped short of saying they would have a place in his government. He would only say they had “clearly got a role to play, a continued role, in Scottish public life.”

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon responds to SNP leadership election result

During the campaign, Ms Forbes was fiercely critical of a number of key SNP policies, including gender reform legislation, the deposit return scheme, the alcohol advertising ban and Highly Protected Marine Areas.

Asked if she would take a post in Mr Yousaf’s cabinet, despite her misgivings over the government’s plans, Ms Forbes said it would be up to the new first minister. 

“Well, obviously, Humza has won so it's for Humza to appoint his cabinet and I, like any other MSP, look forward to supporting him in any way.”

She said she had no regrets: “This contest was about a robust frank exchange of ideas. And it was also about the nature of each of the candidates. So the SNP members have had a real choice when it comes to candidates and I have said throughout the contest that I'm a democrat.

Ms Forbes said she was "still to have conversations about Cabinet and about my future role.”

“And I'm probably not prepared to go beyond that point. Because this conversation still needs to be had and I've obviously made my views pretty clear over the last five weeks.”

Ms Regan took to Twitter to offer her congratulations. “It was a lively contest, I wish him well and I back him as he leads our party - and I would encourage everyone to get behind Team SNP,” she added.