In Scotland, the successor to outgoing Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon is being decided today. The most promising candidates are Finance Minister Kate Forbes (32) and Health Minister Humza Yousaf (37). The third applicant, Ash Regan (49), a former cabinet member, is considered an outsider. The more than 72,000 members of the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) can cast their votes until 1:00 p.m. CEST. After that, the decision will be announced.
On February 15, Sturgeon surprisingly announced her resignation as "First Minister" and party leader of the SNP. The 52-year-old was the first woman to hold the highest government office in the northernmost part of Britain and is considered a driving force behind independence from the United Kingdom. About 5.5 million people live in Scotland - a tenth of the population of England.
With Sturgeon's retirement comes the question of the future of the independence movement. All candidates have announced that they will continue to push ahead with a separation. However, the way to get there is unclear: According to a decision by the highest British court, a new referendum is only possible with the consent of the central government in London - which strictly rejects such a step. In polls, support for independence fell after Sturgeon's retirement.
Sturgeon caused tension with gender law
The new party leader is also to become First Minister tomorrow in Edinburgh's regional parliament. In addition to the question of independence, the new leadership will face other difficult issues.
Prime Minister Sturgeon has caused tensions in the party and society with a liberal gender law. It is planned that the obligation for a medical report as a prerequisite for a change in the gender entry will no longer apply. The minimum age for an application has been reduced from 18 to 16 years. Trans people are people who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.
The British government is blocking the plan, which is also opposed by some in the SNP. Yousaf is the only candidate who has promised to take legal action against London's veto. Now there is a risk of trouble with the Greens, who are demanding that the project be adhered to and want the conflict with London to escalate. In the 2021 regional election, the SNP narrowly missed out on an absolute majority. She then entered into a collaboration with the Greens.
Despite their government positions, both Forbes and Yousaf are considered comparatively inexperienced. Top politicians such as Sturgeon's Vice John Swinney or the former SNP group leader in the British Parliament, Angus Robertson, had decided not to run.