THE SNP leadership candidates are making their final pitches to members in the last full day of campaigning before the contest to succeed Nicola Sturgeon closes.

Party members will have until noon tomorrow to make their choice before the result is announced in Edinburgh at around 2pm.

Humza Yousaf has called for anyone who hasn’t cast their ballot already to “make sure their voice is heard” in the leadership contest.

He urged members to back him saying it was important not to “throw away our winning strategy and the progressive values that have become the hallmark of the SNP”.

Kate Forbes, who is seen as the other contender in the race, has pledged that she will immediately “reach out to fellow candidates, colleagues and critics” if she is selected as first minister.

She said voters should back her as she can “reach across the various divides” and achieve a settled majority for Yes.

Both of the frontrunner candidates have also rejected calls from Scottish Labour to hold a fresh Holyrood election, with Forbes saying it is “brazen hypocrisy and double standards” to suggest the new first minister will not have a mandate.

The announcement of the new leader tomorrow – Forbes, Yousaf or Ash Regan – will come at the end of five weeks of campaigning, which has included 16 hustings and leadership debates.

Speaking to the Sunday National, Yousaf said the success of the SNP and Yes movement relies on continuing the progressive agenda and path which the party has been on for almost 16 years.

He said: “Any rolling back on those progressive values, not just on equality matters but also on economic matters – to me, that we will lose us support as a political party and as a movement.

“I am the candidate who has very firmly said, from the very beginning of this contest, I want to continue to build on a legacy.

“We have to be bold and radical, and we have to make sure we are using all of the powers that we have under devolution to maximum effect when it comes to, for example, tackling inequality and poverty.

“I’m committed to doing that and I also believe I’ve got the skills, the talent, and I hope, the personality to be able to pull the party together, but also the broader Yes movement, to build the team that delivers independence for Scotland.”

Asked about his experience of the leadership campaign, he said: “It has been both exhausting as we have travelled across the country, but also quite energising as I get a real energy from speaking to our members and activists and campaigning.

“The other honest reflection is that election contests internally are always challenging for political parties as people do put forward different policies and there can be certainly the perception that there is division.”

But he said he had “every confidence” the party can move on from the “at time challenging” contest.

“One of the first things I would want to ensure [if selected as leader] is that the other two candidates and myself, for the three of us to present a united message to the party,” he said.

“For all the differences that we may have had during the selection contest and the different directions we may have wanted to take the party, that ultimately all three of us respect the verdict of the membership and the verdict of the membership will align behind and roll in behind one of the three candidates.

“It’s really important that all of us present that united front.”

On the experience of the leadership contest, Forbes told the Sunday National it was always going to be difficult coming back from maternity leave early and with a seven-month-old baby.

But she added: “That said, it has been a privilege to be on the same platform as two exceptionally talented colleagues and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them better as we’ve travelled the length and breadth of Scotland together.

“We’ve also had the opportunity to meet hundreds of SNP members, who demonstrate the depth and breadth of the party.”

She said the first thing she would do to unite the party if elected as First Minister was to “reach out to fellow candidates, colleagues and critics”.

“I recognise there are bridges that need repaired after a robust leadership contest,” she said.

“Our party will always unite behind the shared goal of independence, and I think that harnessing all the talents of the party will be critical to achieving our goal.”

She added: “We need to reach out to the wider public as the SNP. My government will focus on the people’s priorities.

“I can reach across the various divides, and seek to turn a divided nation into a settled majority for Yes.”

Last week Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar used Nicola Sturgeon’s last First Minister’s Questions to call for a fresh Holyrood election, claiming that the next first minister will have “no mandate”.

The National: Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar speaking on the first day of the Scottish Labour Party Conference at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh. Picture date: Friday February 17, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS ScotLabour. Photo credit should read: Jane

But Yousaf said: “We have been elected as a party almost two years ago, so we have that mandate to govern.

“Of course, it will be up to Labour to put forward their own candidate for first minister to the Chamber, ultimately the MSPs who are the representatives of the people will decide who the next first minister is.

“But I have to say to Anas Sarwar, it is pretty bold asking for an election given that his party is still so far behind the SNP.”

Forbes also rejected the call, saying: “Labour had two new first ministers in the first term of the Scottish Parliament without calling an election. The last UK Labour Prime Minister also took office mid-term without calling a General Election.

“To call now for an election saying the new Scottish first minister does not have a mandate shows Labour’s brazen hypocrisy and double standards.

“In addition, I don’t think a further period of political uncertainty would assist in addressing the people’s priorities.”

On Friday, Regan’s team said she was spending the weekend speaking to as many members as possible to ensure they have cast their vote and did not provide a response to request for comment from the Sunday National.