ONE of the final leadership debates took place on Tuesday night hosted by Times Radio.

The three candidates faced a live audience, as well as questions from presenter Aasmah Mir.

They dove right into eradication of poverty as figures were cited that showed 17 out of the 20 constituencies in the UK with the lowest life expectancy were found in Scotland. All three candidates agreed that the key factor in that being Scotland’s reality was Tory imposed austerity.

The first audience question was one that the candidates had not faced in the past three weeks: what will you do to heal the divisions in Scottish society?

When seeking clarification on what specific divisions the audience member meant, Ash Regan was met with laughs as the audience member asked: “Don’t you think there are any?”

The National:

Mir repeated the question that was shouted out: “Do you not believe there are any?” as Kate Forbes offered to answer it first to allow Regan some time.   

Forbes said she fundamentally agreed and added: “I think we have lost the ability to disagree respectively. There used to be a time where you and I may have different views on something but we didn’t dislike one another as a result of that – we were able to exchange views.

Forbes used the example of persuading No voters through respectful dialogue from politicians as one of the ways to ensure respect across society.

Read back attacks Forbes made towards Humza Yousaf in an earlier debate, she said: “We’re in a leadership contest.”

Mir responded by saying Forbes answered respect started with politicians – to which Forbes pointed out the attacks were made on policy and were not personal. The audience laughed.

READ MORE: What are SNP members thinking as leadership race enters final days?

Forbes added: “I tell you what, I respect Humza and value what he has achieved and admire him hugely in whatever else is said in this contest.” This was met with applause.

Yousaf responded by saying too many of societies disagreements, and political discussions, are “culture war” issues.

“Those wedge issues that divide us, and don’t get me wrong, there are issues that every government, and every First Minister should rightly take a stand on, but I think the issues that are important to people are the cost of living issues, and challenges of the economy.”

He said that he would set the tone on day one by having a meeting with all opposition leaders to find common solutions for the national interest, with hope it would flow through to parliament and society on a wider scale.

The panel returned to Regan, and she began by saying that society suffers heavily from “cancel culture”.

She added: “Obviously as someone who would be labelled as gender critical – there was certainly a lot of women particularly, but not just women, men as well, who have found themselves over the last few years being sacked from jobs, not getting platformed, losing publishing contracts and so on, and we can’t have that – we have to be able debate things on a detailed level if we want to.

“And even be able to cause offence. I think you have to be able to cause offence because you can’t control what someone else is going to be offended by.

“However, I would say as politicians, we do have a responsibility to have that appropriate level of debate, not make things personal or reduce things down to a level, I’m thinking of Brexit with Farage driven stuff, and I think we would all say that had a negative effect with the rise in hate crime for example.”

READ MORE: Scottish Tories accuse SNP of trying to cancel FMQs to 'avoid scrutiny'

This led the debate on to the Gender Recognition Reform Bill and whether they would fight it in court. Yousaf reiterated that he would, in principle to not “cave in” to Westminster, Forbes said she would follow the legal advice and Regan argued for amendments.

The debate on Gender Reform saw audience members holler at Yousaf. This was followed by a question on education surrounding gender.

Forbes said lessons surrounding gender identity must involve conversations with parents, Yousaf said he would be comfortable with his own children being taught about gender fluidity, and Regan said she had concerns with parents not being involved.

Forbes followed up by saying that education on gender identity is an incredibly “sensitive issue” with constituents being recognisably concerned, and that there must be parental involvement to ensure parents can give their children guidance.

The debate also touched on the membership issue, which Yousaf called an own goal, as well as independence, what the three will be doing on Coronation Day and who they admire at Westminster, outside the SNP group.