SNP PRESIDENT Michael Russell has issued a call for calm after the first televised party leadership debate saw fiery barbs traded between candidates.

Russell, who was a long-serving minister in the Scottish Government before leaving the Parliament in 2021, warned Ash Regan, Kate Forbes and Humza Yousaf that they would need to work together after the election ends.

The STV debate saw Kate Forbes go after Humza Yousaf’s record in the transport, justice and health departments, and describe her own government’s record as “mediocre”.

The National:

Forbes – who is still on maternity leave but continues to serve in the Cabinet – suggested that if she became first minister she would sack Yousaf from his current role.

In response, Yousaf accused Forbes of "lurching to the right" and asked how she can convert No voters to Yes if independence supporters would leave the party because of her views on LGBT issues.

The comments unsettled activists and provided ammunition for opposition parties, with Unionist media outlets also focusing on the infighting throughout the night.

“My wee calm reminder yesterday , as @theSNP president, was that I wouldn’t be taking sides in the leadership contest,” Russell tweeted on Wednesday morning.

“My wee calm reminder today in the same capacity is that after this contest is over we all need to be able to work together because Scotland really needs us.”

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Speaking to The National at a campaign event on Wednesday morning, Forbes defended her decision to attack Yousaf during the cross-examination segment of the programme. “I think this is a healthy campaign where there are robust exchanges,” she said.

“We need to have robust and frank exchanges and I think the SNP is big enough [to handle it].

"It’s a party of 100,000 members. It’s a diverse group; it reflects the diversity of Scotland. And they want to see a healthy debate on profoundly important issues, like the future of the independence movement, growing our economy, and ending poverty.

“If we cannot have that robust exchange about what’s working – and we can’t have the honesty about what’s not working – then I don’t think we are serving either SNP members or the wider public.”