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SNP called on to 'move heaven and earth' to get Kate Forbes back in the cabinet

By Scott Maclennan

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Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes. Picture: James Mackenzie.

The massive fallout and debate from the Rutherglen by-election has thrown up one winner in the SNP – Kate Forbes. Calls are mounting for First Minister Humza Yousaf to move “heaven and earth” to get her into the cabinet again.

The by-election defeat was seriously bad news for the SNP government because it made it look shakier than ever after 16 years in power, a deluge of scandals, internal critics, and failed policies along with public disenchantment.

Now Alex Salmond’s former right hand man Geoff Aberdein, arguing that the party should not “waste a crisis,” has called for Ms Forbes to be brought back into the government at a senior level.

What makes that significant is that Mr Aberdein is not just well liked but almost universally respected in the SNP. At the height of Salmond v Sturgeon the Ms Sturgeon told the Holyrood inquiry she both respected and liked Mr Aberdein.

In other words people listen to him when it comes to Scottish politics and on the Holyrood Sources podcast, Mr Aberdein said: “If I was there I would be thinking – I need to bring the party back together first and foremost.

“We have seen with Fergus Ewing the internal difficulties and divisions that have been there for us all to see, we know about the Greens being a cause of some consternation.

“Well, first and foremost I would move heaven and earth to try and get Kate Forbes back into government in a senior role and offer her basically whatever position she wanted, whether that was deputy First Minister, whether that was finance secretary again or a special role to develop the economic case for independence.

“Whatever it is, whatever it takes because that in itself would give a sense of the team coming back together.”

Writing online, he added: “The SNP need to show candour; listen and reflect on this result & use it as point of departure. Next week’s conference is an opportunity to reset vision with a refreshed policy agenda. They must seize it or risk is now apparent.”

Mr Aberdein was not alone, Alex Neil fresh from testifying about how the SNP “betrayed” its promise to the Highlands and Islands over the A9 also called for exactly the same action from the First Minister.

He said: “Urgent need for cabinet reshuffle with Kate Forbes brought into the cabinet as deputy first minister.”

Later, addressing the First Minister on X (formerly Twitter) Mr Neil said: “Humza, big changes are urgently required to make sure this isn’t a one-off. Without radical changes in policies and personnel our situation will get worse, not better.”

And then came MP Joanna Cherry who said the Rutherglen and Hamilton by-election proved one thing: “This result should be a major wake up call to those who didn’t listen to Kate Forbes’s advice that ‘continuity won’t cut it.’”

The problem for Mr Yousaf is threefold – one, he would be promoting his number one rival within the party, despite Ms Forbes vowing to get behind the First Minister and never publicly confronting him.

The second is she does not want to be in a government with the Greens – sources close to the Skye, Badenoch and Lochaber MSP made that clear when she turned down the rural affairs brief.

The third is no political leader would want to be ostensibly “rescued” by a rival, particularly not one who now, at least according to Ms Cherry, is beginning to be proved right.

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