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Daily Record
Chris McCall

Humza Yousaf pledges to be different type of leader to Nicola Sturgeon if he becomes First Minister

Humza Yousaf has pledged to take a different style of leadership from Nicola Sturgeon if he becomes the next First Minister.

The Health Secretary, one of three candidates vying to take the top job in Scottish politics, said he would adopt a "big tent" approach rather than rely on the "inner circle" used by the out-going SNP leader.

Yousaf distanced himself from Sturgeon during a leadership debate on LBC radio in Glasgow tonight as the Nationalists continued to deal with the fall-out of a dramatic weekend of resignations.

Peter Murrell, the long-serving SNP chief executive and husband of Sturgeon, dramatically quit on Saturday after the party was found to have misled the media on its membership numbers.

Yousaf was appearing on the debate alongside rivals Ash Regan and Kate Forbes with less than a week to go before the leadership result is finally revealed.

Asked by host Iain Dale how he would differentiate himself from Sturgeon, he said: "I've brought forward policies like a £25m fund in which we can buy empty properties and put them into the social rented sector, that's just one example.

"And I'll take a different leadership approach. I like and admire Nicola and I respect her a lot, but she took quite an inner circle approach to leadership and it served her well, and served the party well.

"She had a close number of people she would often speak to and refer to that would advise. It's not a secret and people have talked about that for many, many years.

"My approach to leadership would be one of a big tent. We've got a huge amount of talent - in Westminster, we have Stephen Flynn and Mhairi Black, who are great MPs.

"In the Scottish Parliament there is a huge amount of talent. And in local government, in this city alone for example we are leading the administration.

"So harness all of that talent and build the team necessary to deliver independence."

It comes as Mike Russell, the interim chief executive of the SNP, yesterday ruled out the leadership ballot being restarted despite a call by Regan.

Speaking on the LBC debate, she was asked if she had full faith in the integrity of the election.

"I feel like the events over the weekend have borne out some of the comments over the last couple of weeks," she said.

"I am the only candidate who started off saying they wanted a fresh direction as I thought we had issues in the party - and some of my fellow candidates here ridiculed me and said I was ridiculous and there was no need to change.

'I think we can see from events over the weekend, with three very high profile resignations, that things are not fine and we do need to go in a different direction."

Regan added: "I think there is a significant amount of voter regret out there at the moment.

"This contest is being run in what I consider to be an inappropriately short time-frame."

She continued: "Now, what's happened in the last week, is the material circumstances of the party have changed beyond all recognition.

"And I think some members may be thinking about how they cast a vote - and they may be thinking that things are not quite what they thought they were."

In a statement issued shortly before the debate began, Russell refused a plea to give members a chance to edit their vote in the party's leadership contest.

"I have heard from each of the candidates, or their teams, today and I am glad that we are all working together to ensure that there is confidence in the integrity of the current process," he said.

"On the specific issues raised today, it would clearly be massively disruptive and confusing for members to be able to recall their ballot - something that is not done in any public election and which cyber security experts have advised, most recently to the Conservatives when they considered an online ability to change a vote, could be subject to hacking attempts."

Yousaf and Forbes, the two frontunners in the race, also clashed over tax during the LBC debate.

Asked why she had ruled out any further income tax rises for high-earners if she became First Minister, the finance secretary said: "Tax has been raised under the SNP and I support that progressive increase.

"But as you know, we have very limited tools when it comes to tax so we can only set rates and bands.

"And I really care about ensuring we have the public revenue to reinvest in our public services.

"We need to increase our tax base. If the divergence with the rest of the UK is too profound, you then jeopardise that revenue that is coming in."

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