ANAS Sarwar has said the next SNP leader will not have a mandate to be first minister as he suggested all three candidates were “incompetent”.

The Scottish Labour leader said whoever wins the contest out of Kate Forbes, Ash Regan or Humza Yousaf on Monday will have “Nicola Sturgeon’s record but won’t have Nicola Sturgeon’s mandate”.

Sarwar called for a snap Holyrood election last week and insisted on the BBC's Sunday Show it would be something his party would “relish” despite polls suggesting they would still be heavily defeated by the SNP.

Scottish Labour have twice installed a new first minister without calling an election. In 2000, Henry McLeish took over after the death of Scotland’s first first minister, Donald Dewar. In 2001, McLeish was succeeded by Jack McConnell amid a scandal around income he received from sub-letting a property subsidised by the taxpayer.

As he was being quizzed about the logic behind his suggeston of a snap election, Sarwar told the Sunday Show: “If you look at what John Swinney said when Jack McConnell became first minsiter having not had an election, he said it was a stitched-up deal behind closed doors and a party arrogant in power.

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“That is a perfect description now of the SNP. This is an SNP that screams about mandates. The next first minister will not have the mandate. They will have Nicola Sturgeon’s record, they won’t have Nicola Sturgeon’s mandate.”

When asked which candidate he would prefer to see win the contest, Sarwar said he would “take any of them” as he called Regan “economically illiterate”, branded Forbes a “social and economic conservative” and regarded Yousaf – who he went to school with - as being “out of his depth”.

Sarwar said: “I’ll take any of them. You’ve got the economically illiterate Ash Regan, you’ve got a social and economic conservative in Kate Forbes, and you have an incompetent and out of his depth Humza Yousaf, so I’ll take any of the three candidates.”

He added: “You clearly have a political party that’s lost its way, the leadership candidates say that. They have a woeful record over the last 16 years, they are putting up incompetent candidates, and people on the face of that want demonstrative change.”

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In criticising the contenders though, he added he didn’t “buy into the idea” that people would switch to Labour because the “wheels were falling off the SNP bus” as he insisted the party would have to go out there and win people’s trust.

During the interview, Sarwar denied Labour and the Tories were turning into the same party and insisted he didn’t worry about the SNP using that as an attack on him.

Asked about whether he would remember Sturgeon fondly, Sarwar described her as a “formidable” politician, suggesting she was more able than any of the candidates vying to replace her.

Sarwar added: “I’ve known Nicola Sturgeon since I was a teenager. She was campaigning against my Dad back in 1997. She’s seen me grow up, I’ve seen her grow up.

The National:

“She’s an able and formidable politician. Do I agree with her values? No. Do I agree with her politics? No. But you still have to show respect I think and I would say the same about people in other political parties.

“Anyone who puts themselves forward for public service, does it for 20 plus years, I think is worthy of recognition and respect. I think even the harshest critic of Nicola Sturgeon would accept she is a formidable politician and that’s not something anyone is going to say about the three leadership contenders to replace her.”