SNP activists have spoken of their concerns over infighting during the TV debate, warning there has been “damage done” to the party.

During the debate on STV, Kate Forbes said in her opening remarks that “more of the same is not a manifesto – it is an acceptance of mediocrity" and launched an attack on Yousaf’s record as a minister.

She has defended her comments, saying there was a need to have a “robust exchange” about what is working and what is not.

But SNP policy convener Toni Giugliano has criticised her tactics, saying he didn’t know if it was Douglas Ross or Anas Sarwar on stage with some of the attack lines.

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“I think most people would say the same – it was a serious error of judgment on behalf of candidates who are standing to be leader of the party and first minister, I think this is bread and butters comms – you can’t get this wrong,” he said.

“They showed again, not for the first time, a serious lack of judgment.

“We have a pro-Union press and pro-Union politicians who are on a daily basis attacking us on these sort of issues – how do we think this is helpful to have leadership hopefuls regurgitate and recycle Unionist attack lines on their own government?”

Giugliano said it was “dishonest” to attack others when there is collective responsibility within the government and almost suggest “you have nothing to with it, almost like an opposition politician looking in".

He added: “There was damage done last night, because the entire country heard what they had to say and it wasn’t a good look.

"How can you trash your own record on national television and then expect your activists to go out chapping doors defending it, a year out from a General Election?”

The National: DUMFRIES, SCOTLAND - MARCH 06: Scotland's Finance Minister and Scottish National Party (SNP) MSP Kate Forbes (R), SNP MSP Ash Regan (L), and Scotland's Health Minister and SNP MSP Humza Yousaf (C) pose as they attend an SNP Hustings event at

Another activist, who is also supporting Yousaf, told The National his jaw was “just about on the floor” listening to Forbes’s attack on the SNP’s record in Government.

He said: “Peddling out Tory lines and spin in the way Kate Forbes did, to attack our party and strong record in government was not reflective of someone who should lead our party.

“Kate Forbes may be trying to angle herself as the ‘change’ candidate but the so called change, she’s advocating for resembles that of the Tory Party.

“I have proudly chapped thousands of doors and delivered even more leaflets showcasing the strong record of our SNP Scottish Government.

“I don’t appreciate a tartan Tory candidate in the form of Kate Forbes trashing the hard work we’ve all dedicated our time and effort on.”

A senior SNP activist also hit out at Forbes, saying they felt she "betrayed us all".

"I am proud of our record in Government, if I wasn't I would not give up my time to campaign on that record. To hear one of our own, someone who I have campaigned with was a stab to the heart," the activist said. 

"Up until now, the leadership debate has been held in the correct manner. But Forbes and Regan last night broke the rule of campaigning in internal elections with respect and decency.

"Throwing our record in Government under the bus for personal gain is not the mark of someone fit to be the leader of our party.

"I hope Kate and Ash will reflect on their behaviour and damage they have done and get back to the respectful campaign we had seen up until last night."

Social justice secretary Shona Robison, who is supporting Yousaf, said the feedback she had from members following the TV debate is that they wanted to see “positive rigorous debate” during the leadership contest.

She said: “My immediate thought was for my poor activists and members who go out in all weathers chapping doors defending the SNP’s record in government.

“I don’t think that is what SNP members expected to see, I think they want to see us united speaking proudly about our record – whether it is on Scottish Child Payment, free prescriptions, social housing, childcare. There is a lot of stuff to talk about.

“We shouldn’t be complacent, there is always room for progress there is more to be done, but from the feedback I have had from member I don’t think they like negativity.

“They still expect positivity, you can still have rigorous debate, but I think they expect that to be done with the right tone and in a positive way.

She added: “That is the feedback I have had from members contacting me and hopefully folk might reflect on that before the next debate.”