The frontrunner in the SNP race to replace Nicola Sturgeon has declared that Scotland could ditch the monarchy within five years of independence and replace King Charles with an elected head of state.
Humza Yousaf, a republican, has detailed how he believes regional assemblies should begin discussing issues around ‘what kind of Scotland we want to see’ in his latest interview.
Voting opened on Monday in the contest to succeed Ms Sturgeon as SNP leader and Scotland’s first minister, with ballot papers being sent out to tens of thousands of party members for them to choose between rivals Mr Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan. Voting closes on March 27.
Mr Yousaf’s vision for his country would not include the monarchy – and he told The National that he believes moving towards an elected head of state should happen within five years of independence.
He said: ‘Let’s also talk about things like monarchy. I don’t know why we should be shy about that, I don’t think we should be. I’ve been very clear, I’m a republican. That’s never been anything I’ve hidden.’
The politician added that he would be ‘keen’ to transition to a new Scottish currency as ‘quickly as possible’.
‘But let’s absolutely within the first five years consider whether or not we should move away from having a monarchy into an elected head of state,’ Mr Yousaf said.
He explained how he considers himself a ‘citizen, not a subject’, adding that he thinks it would be ‘important’ to make the move within the first few years of independence.
Mr Yousaf’s suggestions come only three days after Prince Edward was granted the title of Duke of Edinburgh to mark his 59th birthday, with his wife Sophie becoming the Duchess of Edinburgh.
Their son James, Viscount Severn, 15, will from today be known as Earl of Wessex – his father’s previous title, while none of the changes are to affect their daughter Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor, 19, due to the ancient rules of primogeniture.
The third televised showdown between Mr Yousaf, Ms Forbes and Ms Regan, held in Edinburgh, was broadcast on Sky News on Monday night.
The previous two debates have been marked by bitter clashes between the contenders, which has drawn comparisons to a ‘circular firing squad’.
Mr Yousaf’s ministerial record was panned by Ms Forbes, who has also suggested he should be sacked from his role as Health Secretary over Scotland’s NHS crisis.
But Mr Yousaf has sniped back, highlighting Ms Forbes’s socially conservative views and suggested her election as leader would see the SNP ‘lurching to the Right’.
Meanwhile Ms Regan, widely viewed as the outsider in the contest, has delivered a withering verdict on Ms Sturgeon’s long spell in charge.
She has told SNP members the party has ‘lost its way’ and admitted there had been ‘no progress’ on Scottish independence in recent years.
Ms Regan has also continued her criticism of Ms Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell, who is the SNP’s chief executive.
‘Effectively he’s running the contest to replace his wife,’ Ms Regan has claimed.
Mr Yousaf pledged to shift the SNP’s push for Scottish independence into ‘fifth gear’ if he is elected party leader.
It followed a suggestion by Ben Macpherson, the social security minister, to ‘go down a gear’ rather than pursue ‘any reckless, overly disruptive path’.
Asked about Mr Macpherson’s comments, Mr Yousaf said: ‘I have the opposite view, I think we should be ramping up, not ramping down activity.
‘If I was the first minister I’d put us into fifth gear – let alone take it down a gear.
‘There’s a number of prospectus papers I would commit to publishing around the case for independence as soon as I become first minister.
‘But also, on day one, we’ve got to kick start the Yes movement.’
In what again became a bad-tempered TV debate, Ms Forbes faced close scrutiny of her socially conservative views.
The 32-year-old – a member of the evangelical Free Church of Scotland – almost saw her campaign collapse amid a series of car-crash interviews last month.
She admitted she would have voted against gay marriage and branded pre-marital sex ‘wrong’.
But last night Ms Forbes insisted she did not ‘disapprove’ of unmarried couples and gay married couples.
She also branded conversion therapy ‘abhorrent’ – although stopped short of saying she would ban the practice entirely.
Both Ms Forbes and Ms Regan described Ms Rowling – the Harry Potter author and a leading critic of the Scottish Government’s gender identity reforms – as ‘brave’ for speaking out on the issue.
There was agreement among all three candidates that they would demand an independence referendum as the price of SNP support for a Labour government at Westminster.