Kate Forbes has warned MSPs they should accept her as leader if she wins the SNP leadership contest as she defended her attacks on rival Humza Yousaf.
The Finance Secretary said SNP MSPs who are angry at her criticisms of the Government must "honour" the decision of party members in the contest.
The three-way contest between Forbes, Health Secretary Yousaf and backbencher Ash Regan to succeed Nicola Sturgeon went nuclear last night following the first live TV debate.
In an astonishing attack on Yousaf - who has been dubbed the Nicola Sturgeon continuity candidate - Forbes blasted his record in office.
"You were a transport minister and the trains were never on time, when you were justice secretary the police were stretched to breaking point, and now as health minister we've got record high waiting times," she said.
The criticisms have angered an MSP group at Holyrood that is lining up behind Yousaf.
At an event in Edinburgh, Forbes doubled down after being asked if she had any regrets:
“This is an election contest to be the next First Minister. And I think the public can and SNP members want to see somebody who has got the guts to recognise what needs to change, and also recognises the fact that we need to have a plan to deliver.
“And last night was all about having the candour and the honesty to say that more of the same isn't what Scotland needs.”
She also said a new SNP leader had to have “metal” and “courage”.
Asked about whether she would be able to unite SNP MSPs, she said:
“Across the SNP membership, it will be one person, one vote, and I have confidence that SNP members can make up their own minds.
“When it comes to the selection of that leader, the leader will need to be backed by MSPs because I think it would be quite a profound question of democracy for SNP members if elected representatives didn't honour the choice that they had made.”
She added: “We are accountable in part to our members. So if members make a choice, I think it's incumbent on elected representatives to answer to their branches to to respect that choice.”
She was also asked about trashing the performance of the Sturgeon government:
“It was actually questioning which candidate has the most competence to take Scotland forward last night, and that was my focus. Which of us has the competence to actually deliver what SNP members want and what the public needs right now?
“I am proud of the government's record. I'm proud of the government's record when it comes to seeking to reduce poverty.”
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