IT’S the final week of the SNP leadership contest but which candidate has the X Factor?

The winner will be the one who can not only build up a sense of trust that they represent the views of SNP members but can also come across as inspirational, according to psychologist Ashley Weinberg of ­Salford ­University.

He said that in any leadership ­campaign, it was extremely important to build trust with voters.

“There are various ways in which you can do that,” said Dr Weinberg. “People look at your track record and whether it is consistent with what you say and what you do. A lot of thought also has to go into social media too as people are judged by what they say on that.

“I think as well that people are looking for someone who speaks for them. Does the candidate share their values and will they represent the views they hold? It’s impossible to be all things to all people but in a sense that is what people are looking for.

“And also maybe a potential ­ingredient is that bit of inspiration as well. Is this someone that people feel has that X Factor?”

Over the next few days, the ­candidates should use language that is consistent with building trust, Weinberg advises, and they should be aware of what is important to the groups and audiences they address, while also holding strong to their principles. They should also convey a feeling that they want to include ­voters and “take them forward”.

“Consistency feeds into a sense of trust and you can see the appeal of that approach particularly in the ­wider context where trust not been to the fore,” he said.

Potential leaders should try to strike a balance of being strong and firm but also caring and empathetic – ­something that too few leaders across the world have been lauded for in ­recent years, according to Weinberg who edited the book Psychology Of Democracy: Of The People, By The People, For The People, which ­considers the drivers and barriers to effective democracy across the globe.

“Striking that balance is the ­important bit and sadly we also have global examples – some close to home – where that balance has been ­patently absent and as a result there has been division,” he said. “This can be observed in preoccupation with self-interest, for example where you have a leader who is clearly interested in promoting their own, or their ­family’s, or their cronies’ interests.”

Psychologist Peter Bull, ­Honorary Professor at York University, said the two main dimensions on which ­British audiences rate their ­politicians are competence and ­responsiveness. In this case, he said the ­electorate would need to be ­convinced the ­winning candidate is capable of ­running the SNP and also running the country.

They also need to show they are ­responsive to members of the ­electorate and their concerns.

“They want to convince people they are capable of leading the country so they have got to use language that is straightforward and clear enough for people to follow and also convince people they are capable of doing the job,” said Bull.

“There are clearly some issues, such as gay rights, gender recognition and abortion where they differ and so they can be portrayed as possibly not responsive. How much are their ­personal views going to influence ­policy – that creates a difficulty for Kate Forbes in how she deals with that.”

Meanwhile, he said, Humza Yousaf has been criticised a lot as the ­minister for health and therefore has to defend his competence.

“These are the kind of things they have to do,” said Bull.

Gestures and non-verbal communication are also important.

“They need to come over as people who are sure of themselves, confident but not overconfident,” he said. “If someone is nervous and fidgety that is not going to help. They need to be clear and concise in what they do and gesticulation can be overdone.”

Bull pointed out that the ­election of the leader of a party that is in ­government is always going to be “slightly odd” because if they are “knocking chips” out of one another they are actually also attacking their own government. “Presumably they have to do this because they want to make out they are the better ­candidate and one of the ways of doing that is to knock the other two so it

becomes slightly odd in that respect,” he said.

It is also “tricky” because they are trying to appeal to the general public as well as the SNP membership who want someone to lead the country to independence.

“They are all advocating independence but that is a difficult one because as far as I can see from opinion polls there isn’t a clear lead for the pro-independence movement so you may be appealing to some portions of the country but not to others.

“It’s a tricky one and I think they have got to be realistic. If they are pushing for the moon, then it ­becomes ridiculous and people are unconvinced by that.

“Yet they have to be clear about what they stand for and there are ­obviously differences between them.

“I don’t think there is any magic bullet but whether they have any ­rabbits to pull out of the hat remains to be seen.”

The Psychology of Political Communication: Politicians under the Microscope by Peter Bull and Maurice Waddle will be published in June by Routledge: Abingdon/New York