A Scottish Saltire flag blows in the wind near the statue of Scottish King Robert the Bruce, at Bannockburn, Scotland, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012InternationalIndiaAfricaJames TweedieThe race to succeed outgoing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) has attracted three candidates, each with their own eccentricities. But only one will make it to the seat of devolved government at Edinburgh’s Bute House. Three runners have emerged in the race to become next leader of the separatist SNP and first minister of the devolved Scottish government — but what do they stand for?Sturgeon unexpectedly announced she was quitting after eight years in office at a hastily-convened press conference on February 15. While she refused to admit any faults in her leadership, a series of unpopular policy moves and government fiascos had eroded support for her party and independenceThanks to intense coverage by much of the Scottish and UK-wide media, Humza Yousaf already looks like the anointed successor to Sturgeon.He has pledged to keep going with the moves that have cost the SNP, its outgoing leader and its separatist cause significant voter support in recent polls.The most controversial among them has been the policy officially recognising self-declared transsexuals as members of the opposite sex without a medical diagnosis. The SNP-Scottish Green coalition tried to enshrine that in the Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) bill, which became the first piece of Scottish legislation in 25 years of devolution to be blocked by the Westminster Parliament.Yousaf has held several high-profile roles in the devolved government under Sturgeon — and has been tainted by controversies in each one.As transport minister he was fined £300 and had six penalty added to his license for driving a friend’s car without insurance.As justice secretary he steered the contentious Hate Crime and Public Order Act through the devolved Holyrood parliament — legislation so convoluted that police and prosecutors are still trying to work out how to enforce it almost two years after it became law. Groups ranging from the National Secular Society to the Roman Catholic Church warned the bill could muzzle free speech, while Yousaf argues that its should even criminalise those expressing views or language offensive to minorities in the privacy of their own homes.Since Sturgeon appointed Yousaf health secretary in May 2021, the Scottish wing of the National Health Service (NHS) has been wracked by crises. By September that year the average waiting time for an ambulance had hit six hours, and he asked the UK Ministry of Defence to deploy army paramendics. Audit Scotland found that 500 people died as a result of delays.After boasting last September that the Scottish NHS had avoided staffing problems plaguing the rest of the country, Yousaf found himself, along with Downing Street, embroiled in strikes by nurses.As first minister he has pledged yet more legislation at odds with Westminster, committing to a human rights bill just as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government plans to replace the 1998 Human Rights Act with a significantly slimmed-down law.WorldSturgeon’s Departure Leaves Scottish National Party Without Obvious Successor, Experts Say18 February, 07:28 GMTAsh Regan is widely seen as a new broom to sweep out the current dominant faction in the SNP.She resigned from Sturgeon’s cabinet in October 2022 over the GRR bill, which was strenuously opposed by Scottish women’s groups and other civil society organisations. Within a month the issue blew up in the SNP’s face when a rapist who began identifying as a woman after he was charged was convicted in Glasgow and was initially sent to a women’s prison.Her opponents have tried to portray her as a proxy candidate for former SNP leader and first minister Alex Salmond, who founded rival party Alba after Sturgeon’s attempts to find him guilty of sexual harassment and rape at an internal disciplinary and criminal court case, both of which failed.Regan has made headlines with a number of radical assertions — some of which have exposed her to ridicule.They include her insistence that a Scottish national bank with its own currency could be set up within months of independence, her opposition to transporting the historical Stone of Scone to London — as is customary — for the coronation of King Charles III and her pledge to erect a giant “independence thermometer” in a public place to display the progress towards the SNP’s core goal.Regan also favours the strategy of declaring every election to the devolved regional parliament next to Holyrood Palace to be a de-facto repeat of the 2014 independence plebiscite, which the SNP-led Yes campaign lost by a margin of 10 per cent. She has even vowed to appeal to the United Nations to force the UK to recognise a future Scottish claim to self-determination.WorldSNP Westminster Leader Urges Party to ‘Pause’ Indy Conference as Sturgeon Quits16 February, 16:56 GMTMedia coverage of Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes’s campaign has been dominated by claims that her religious beliefs — as a member of the Protestant Free Church of Scotland — would color her politics, despite her repeated statements to the contrary.Commentators have pointed out that the same scrutiny was not applied to Humza Yousaf, a Muslim, despite Alex Salmond’s revelation that he skipped a vote on legalising same-sex marriage in 2014 due to pressure from his own religious community.Both Forbes and Yousaf have also sounded vague on the question of how they will secure independence, the SNP’s core goal.While seemingly at odds with the ‘woke’ politically-correct attitudes of many of the SNP members who will decide the election, Forbes has the widest support among the party’s voter base.A Big Partnership poll in late February found 28 per cent of SNP voters backed Forbes, with 20 per cent preferring Yousaf and only seven per cent for Regan — although 31 per cent where ambivalent to all three.A survey of SNP members by pollsters Savanta last week found 31 per cent wanted Yousaf as their next leader, with 25 per cent opting for Forbes and 11 per cent for Regan. Crucially, 32 per cent were still undecided, leaving the race wide open.