LEADERSHIP candidates Kate Forbes and Ash Regan both called out “serial hustings attendees” at Wednesday night's event.

The pair were joined by their other rival Humza Yousaf at Johnstone Town Hall as they bid to win the hearts of SNP members.

But they were both quick to point out that they recognised a few faces in the room from previous hustings, which sparked some backlash online with members struggling to secure seats at the eight in-person events.

The National:

Former community safety minister Regan used her introductory speech to say: “Good evening everyone, thank you very much for inviting us to be with you this evening.

“Around about this time I’m normally asking people to think about how they felt the morning of September 19 in 2014 but I know there’s some serial hustings watchers here and you may have heard that story before, so I’m going to curtail it a bit this evening.”

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Meanwhile, Forbes first words of the evening were: “Good evening, and I think there’s at least some familiar faces from previous hustings as well so there’s obviously some serial hustings attendees in the room, but it’s wonderful to be able to join you this evening.”

Some people speculated online that the candidates were calling out “Team Humza serial hustings attendees”.

It comes after SNP MP Joanna Cherry suggested the “party machine” was behind the Health Secretary.

Robin McAlpine – former director of pro-independence think tank Common Weal – also said that cutting the length of the contest to four weeks, forbidding candidates from spending more than £5000 on their campaigns, and initially seeking to exclude the media from hustings were intended to favour Yousaf. 

Yousaf branded Cherry’s comments as “pretty desperate stuff” which had “no evidence”.

At the hustings in Johnstone, Yousaf swiped back at Forbes’ accusations of “mediocrity” within the SNP and set out a commitment to the party’s governance agreement with the Greens.

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Despite promising at the outset he would remain “relentlessly positive”, he returned to comments made during the previous night’s televised STV debate by Forbes, who launched into scathing criticisms of his record in government.

Addressing activists in the room, he said: “You’re rightly proud of the record of your SNP government – it’s not a mediocre record, it’s a record we should be proud of.”