KATE Forbes has questioned Humza Yousaf’s competence as she skewered his record in government during the first TV leadership debate of the election.

The Finance Secretary suggested Yousaf’s self-confessed position as the continuity candidate was an “acceptance of mediocrity” in a blistering opening speech – painting herself as the “competence” candidate.

In her opening remarks during Tuesday night’s STV debate, Forbes said: “More of the same is not a manifesto – it is an acceptance of mediocrity. We can do better.”

But Yousaf hit back – pointing out Forbes had never held a government job which focused on delivering public services.

During a segment where candidates cross-examined each another, Forbes said to Yousaf: “When you were transport minister the trains were never on time, when you were justice minister the police were strained to breaking point and now as health minister we’ve got record high waiting times.

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“What makes you think you can do a better job as first minister?”

Yousaf replied: “Well first of all, in transport, I not only built new roads and railways but of course the Queensferry Crossing came in under budget.

“As justice secretary protections for domestic abuse victims, I pardoned the miners, I made sure I brought in the Turing Law. As Health Secretary, I delivered the fastest-ever Covid booster programme in the entire UK, the third-fastest in the whole, entire world.”

Forbes then claimed extent of the Health Secretary’s ambitions were to be “slightly better than the rest of the UK” – and later quipped she would give him a ministerial post but might sack him from his current job.

Yousaf noted that Scotland was the only nation in the UK not to have NHS strikes and said he had held "probably the three toughest jobs in government” in his most recent roles.

He added: “What I would say to you is, look, I’m my own man.

“I’ll bring my own leadership style when I’m the first minister of Scotland but let me say this much – if continuity means continuing 15 years of winning elections, which means 15 years of growing support for independence, if it means 15 years of being the national government of Scotland, then I think that continuity is no bad thing.”

Meanwhile, Ash Regan was accused of falsely claiming all pro-Yes parties had expressed excitement about her plans.

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Patrick Harvie said the claim was “simply, plainly false”. A member of Regan’s team told The National the Scottish Greens had refused to put their call through.

Her campaign released a statement clarifying her remarks, saying she had spoken with the Alba Party, the Independence for Scotland Party, the Scottish Socialist Party, and Tommy Sheridan’s Hope Over Fear group and they had all “expressed excitement and support”.

They said she had “left a message” with the Scottish Greens.  

Party co-leader Harvie tweeted: “The Scottish Greens are not endorsing a candidate - this is an election for SNP members. But those voting have a right to know that this claim by a candidate on national TV is simply, plainly false.”

Regan also said she would review the SNP’s Bute House agreement with the Scottish Greens, which effectively put the parties in coalition to form a pro-Yes majority in Holyrood.