SNP officials have revealed only party members will be able to watch husting events across Scotland.

This afternoon, party HQ said members needed “a safe space” for debate and for that reason, the nine hustings will be closed to both the public and press.

Photographers will have access to the halls prior to the start of the meeting, and press will be able to remain and "gather reaction from outside the hustings hall".

The nine events are to take place over two weeks for the SNP’s leadership election, with eight set to take place in-person. One will take place online for those unable to travel to see the candidates discuss the big issues of the race.

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A spokesman for the SNP's National Executive Committee said: “SNP members are the lifeblood of our party and our movement.

"It is the members who will be voting for the next leader of the party, so the SNP NEC has designed the party hustings as a safe space for members to ask questions of the three candidates.”

However, leadership candidate Kate Forbes has called for the hustings to be webcast live and for the media to be given access to report on the events. 

She said: “As you would expect for Scotland’s biggest political party, there is considerable interest from members in listening to the forthcoming hustings.

“As the leader of the SNP will also become First Minister, it is no surprise that the general public as well as the media are keen to follow the debate too.

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“I have received messages from party members the length and breadth of Scotland because all of the spaces for the hustings have been snapped up.

“I fully believe in democracy and transparency, and I think it would be a positive thing for the hustings to be livestreamed to a significantly bigger audience – the SNP has a membership of 100,000 and most of the venues will only take a few hundred people.

“I don’t believe any of the candidates have anything to hide, in fact, it would give us a platform to set a positive example for how to have respectful, informed and varied debate.

“I hope that members of the media can be given access too – as well as the national media, I know a number of local media outlets will be very keen to cover town hall meetings that are happening on their doorstep.”

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A spokesperson for Humza Yousaf said: "Humza has already agreed to a number of TV debates throughout the course of the campaign where those who are not SNP members or cannot attend hustings can see why Humza is the top candidate to become Scotland's next First Minister and he has no problem with the media seeing any of the hustings.

"As a democratic party it is a decision for the NEC which represents members." 

Ash Regan said: "The media have a job to do, and as candidates, we have a duty to be held to scrutiny.

"I firmly believe we should allow access and ask that the media carry the proceedings fairly and fully - making them available to all."

The Society of Editors has also condemned the move to hold the events in private and called on organisers to reverse the decision. 

Dawn Alford, executive director of the Society of Editors, said: “Given that the upcoming SNP leadership election will determine the next First Minister of Scotland, it is outrageous that the decision has been made to conduct hustings events behind closed doors.

“There is a clear and unequivocal public interest in the media’s ability to report on the hustings in order to provide proper scrutiny of the candidates for the benefit of the public.

"We call on the executive committee to reverse this decision and allow the media access to these important events.”

A spokesperson for the SNP NEC said: "We are in discussion with media outlets making a request for access to our members hustings event in Cumbernauld, and we're already looking at ways to make content available to our wider membership for the remainder of this series of events." 

So far, two public debates have been announced.

The SNP Trade Union Group (SNPTUG) has organised a hustings in association with The National, which will be live streamed across all of our social media platforms on Saturday, March 11.

STV will broadcast a debate which will be hosted by political editor Colin Mackay. It is scheduled to air at 9pm on Tuesday, March 7.