BBC debate featuring Kate Forbes, Ash Regan and Humza Yousaf

Fact check: SNP leadership debates

Voting is open in the SNP leadership race, with members choosing who they want to lead the party and become the next first minister. 

Kate Forbes, Ash Regan and Humza Yousaf have taken part in a number of televised debates to put forward their views and outline their potential policies if they are elected.

Ferret Fact Service looked at a selection of the claims made by the three candidates in the last two TV debates, on Sky News and the BBC.

Ferret Fact Service | Scotland's impartial fact check project

Kate Forbes

Growth in the last quarter was 0.1.

BBC Debate Night leadership special, 14 March

Growth in the last quarter was 0.1.

Scotland’s gross domestic product (GDP) is calculated in quarterly statistics published by the Scottish Government. GDP is the total value of goods and services produced in a country, and is often cited as the main measure of economic growth or reduction. 

The latest figures covered the last financial quarter of 2022, and showed that there was 0.1 per cent growth in Scotland’s onshore economy, after the economy contracted during the previous quarter. This means it does not cover the receipts from the offshore oil and gas industry, which is included in headline UK economic figures.

Ferret Fact Service verdict: True

This claim is True

Poll after poll shows I’m most trusted to govern Scotland well and to govern for all of Scotland.

Sky News leaders debate, 13 March

“Poll after poll shows I’m most trusted to govern Scotland well and to govern for all of Scotland.

There have been a number of polls gauging the views of SNP voters and the general public on which candidate they preferred. 

In a recent YouGov poll conducted for Sky News ahead of its leadership debate, Forbes was the candidate that the highest proportion of those polled thought would make a good first minister, with 27 per cent thinking she’d make a good first minister and 36 per cent believing she would not.

Of those polled, 22 per cent thought Humza Yousaf would make a good first minister, and 14 per cent thought Ash Regan would be good in the top job. Yousaf, however, was the most popular with SNP voters. 

Forbes was also seen as the most competent by general voters, as well as SNP voters from the last election. 

The Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP has consistently been the most popular candidate among general voters in polling since the SNP leadership election began, but is neck and neck with Yousaf in polling among SNP voters. Yousaf also had the highest support in a poll of SNP members, taken by Savanta for the Telegraph at the end of February. 

Ferret Fact Service verdict: Mostly True

Mostly True

Ash Regan

Can explain why you are claiming credit for your involvement in ? When you had no part in the design of it, nothing to do with the contract awards or the building and in fact what you were responsible for was a six month delay.

Sky News leaders debate, 13 March

Can explain why you are claiming credit for your involvement in ? When you had no part in the design of it, nothing to do with the contract awards or the building and in fact what you were responsible for was a six month delay.

The Queensferry Crossing was initially announced by then-finance secretary John Swinney in 2007. It opened on 30 August 2017. 

Yousaf became transport secretary in May 2016, just over a year before the bridge opened. The opening was delayed by six months, with the Scottish Government blaming adverse weather conditions. Then-economy secretary Keith Brown said the contractual completion date for the bridge was in July 2017, with December 2016 being the original target.

The bridge was completed and opened under the tenure of Yousaf as transport minister, but the procurement and much of the construction was completed before he was in office. 

Ferret Fact Service verdict: Mostly True

Mostly True

Humza Yousaf

Since this campaign started three weeks ago I’ve managed to quadruple my support amongst the public.

Sky News leaders debate, 13 March

Since this campaign started three weeks ago I’ve managed to quadruple my support amongst the public.

Yousaf argued that the momentum was with him in the race to become leader, after he was confronted with poll numbers suggesting he was unpopular with the general public. 

He countered by saying he had quadrupled his support among the public since his campaign started. 

In response to Ferret Fact Service, Yousaf’s team pointed to polling from Savanta for The Scotsman taken between 15 and 17 February, and polling by Ipsos for Channel 4 on 6 to 7 March.

In the Savanta/Scotsman poll, Yousaf was chosen by six per cent of voters as their chosen next first minister. However, this was before candidates had been officially announced, included nine potential candidates, and did not include Ash Regan. 

In the Channel 4 poll, Yousaf was on 24 per cent when voters were asked who would make the best first minister. This gave three potential candidates, and is not comparable. 

Two more comparable polls were done by YouGov on 17 to 20 February, and 9 to 13 March. The March poll showed 22 per cent thought he would be a good first minister, compared to 17 per cent in the earlier survey.

Ferret Fact Service verdict: Mostly False

This claim is Mostly False

We have a pay deal on the table that means our NHS staff will be the best paid in the entire UK.

BBC Debate Night leadership special, 14 March

We have a pay deal on the table that means our NHS staff will be the best paid in the entire UK.

Unions for NHS staff have been negotiating for increased wages, as the Scottish Government tries to avoid strike action. 

Before the current pay negotiations, Scotland’s NHS staff were better paid than elsewhere in the UK. 

A revised pay offer was submitted in mid February, committing to a 6.5 per cent increase in 2023-24 for all but the highest paid staff and a one-off pro rata payment of between £387 and £939. This offer would see an experienced nurse in Scotland paid nearly £5,000 more than the equivalent in England was paid last year. 

NHS staff in England have also been campaigning for a better deal on pay, and were offered a deal by the UK Government on 16 March. The Department of Health and Social Care announced a five per cent consolidated increase in pay for 2023-24 and an additional one-off lump sum for 2022-23.

If unions accept the new pay deal, Scotland’s NHS staff will be paid higher than staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Ferret Fact Service verdict: True

This claim is True
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