THE SNP leadership candidates have outlined their visions for greater decentralisation of government, including breaking up Highland Council and having local communities involved in bodies such as CalMac.

The three MSPs vying for the top job – Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan – set out their case in the third round of party hustings in Inverness on Saturday afternoon.

SNP members quizzed them on range of issues including energy, equal rights, improving disability access, holding a snap Holyrood election and the prospect of a TV leadership debate.

One question asked whether they believed government in Scotland was too remote and should move to a more decentralised Scandinavian approach, giving more regional power.

To some applause Forbes responded: “Let’s start by breaking up Highland Council.

“We know in the Highlands and Islands that the approach to social care…the approach to local government, the approach to filling the potholes is going to look different in Portree than it does in Inverness,” she said.

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“We need to get back to what we were all about as a party – which was empowering those in local communities to make the best decisions for the people that they serve.

“That is my approach to independence – my approach to independence is not rocket science, it is that those who live in Scotland are best placed to make decisions about affairs that matter to Scotland.

“And I think that needs to be the approach to power more generally.”

Yousaf also backed the idea of “putting power back into people’s hands”, which he suggested could begin with ferry operator CalMac.

“They should be decentralised in the hearts of our community and on their boards should be people who make up those communities, who live in those communities, who reside in those communities, who depend on those lifeline services in those communities,” he added.

“I think organisations, public bodies, companies, like CalMac – and there are many others as well, we need to make sure they are representative of our communities.

“When it comes to public bodies, the creation of them, don’t just stick their offices in Edinburgh and Glasgow - make sure the centre of their power, their headquarters are in the communities that are being affected.”

Regan said local decision making had to be improved, but warned it also had to be backed up with sufficient funding.

She said: “In Edinburgh, I’ve got Portobello Beach in my constituency and it’s our big tourist attraction and they closed all the toilets.

“So we have got to find a way to fund that properly so we can make sure we have services we all need and we need to have policies that will appeal to the islands - getting to grips with the ferry situation would be a very good start to that one.”

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She also said she would like to see the Borders Railway Line extended further and added: “I agree with Kate, I think we should be looking at breaking up Highland Council – it is enormously large and it means people don’t feel the connection in the way that decisions are made.”

Another question focused on how to get young people more involved with the SNP and activism.

Yousaf said it was important to engage with platforms such as TikTok and Instagram, as well as going out to where young people are, such as youth clubs.

But he added: “Our young people have come to us in droves because of the socially progressive agenda we have had for years. We cannot roll back on that.”

Regan suggested the SNP’s youth wing Young Scots for Independence (YSI) could help in getting more young people registered to vote, with data showing they are more likely to then get into the habit of taking part in elections.

The National: Ash Regan

“So I would like to see us really prioritising that drive to get younger people registered so they can come out and express their democratic will,” she added.

Forbes said the way to reach young people was to be a “government that delivers for them”, with policies such as concessionary bus travel.

She added: “As a government, political debate is important, absolutely. But we’ve got to deliver, we’ve got to deliver affordable homes, we’ve got to deliver a fair wage and we have got to ensure our infrastructure and our public transport works for our young people.”

The hustings also featured some more light-hearted moments – including when chair Michael Russell asked an audience member to take the microphone and state their name.

There was laughter when a voice from someone’s phone responded clearly: “I’m Siri”.

Regan also made an unusual comparison when she criticised her rivals plans on how to get to an independence referendum as “like giving a bag of marshmallows”.

“It looks quite nice, it sounds quite nice, but ultimately there is absolutely no substance to it whatsoever,” she said.

Responding to her comment, Yousaf quipped: “I quite like marshmallows, I won’t lie.”