SNP minister Michael Matheson rejects ‘wild conspiracy theories’ in party leadership race

An SNP Cabinet minister has rejected “wild conspiracy theories” over the number of senior Nationalists who have backed Humza Yousaf to become the party’s next leader.

Michael Matheson was among the first MSPs to endorse the Health Secretary’s campaign to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister.

You are reading: SNP minister Michael Matheson rejects ‘wild conspiracy theories’ in party leadership race

Yousaf has since been backed by 50 SNP parliamentarians, including John Swinney, Ian Blackford, Stephen Flynn and Mhairi Black.

Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Energy, told the Record it was a reflection of “where the party’s appetite is”.

Kate Forbes, the Finance Secretary, has won only 14 endorsements from MPs or MSPs and Ash Regan just one.

Asked if Yousaf’s level of support among senior Nationalists could be viewed as a negative by ordinary party members, Matheson said: “I’ve only got one vote like everyone else – as is the case for other ministers and MPs.

“It’s down to individuals to make their decision. It should come as no surprise during an election campaign in a political party that politicians do what politicians do – they take a position on matters and decide who to support.

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“I don’t buy into some of the wild conspiracy theories that are being putting about around establishment candidates. I think it is a reflection of where the party’s appetite is and the levels of endorsements are a reflection of that.

“That’s because of the policy agendas the different candidates have set out. That’s why they have attracted different levels of support.”

It comes as some in the SNP have questioned whether the leadership race could be “rigged”.

Regan previously suggested there was a potential conflict of interest as the party’s Chief Executive, Peter Murrell, is married to Sturgeon.

She told Sky News “it would be like Carrie counting the votes for Boris Johnson’s successor”.

The SNP has said Murrell does not have a role in the ballot as it is being conducted by Mi-Voice, an electoral services specialist, with most of the voting done online.

Matheson, speaking to the Record before Forbes and Regan demanded the party’s membership numbers be published, said there was a “very strong appetite to maintain a socially progressive agenda that could take us forward to independence”.

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He said: “My view is the party is very much socially progressive, with a strong economic policy founded in social democracy.

“That is about not only growing our economy, but doing it with a purpose to creating a more equal society. It’s important to build on the progress we have made over the last decade and I believe Humza is the best person to actually do that.

“If you’ve listened, as I have, to many of the hustings that have taken place across the country, there is a very strong sense within the party that we need to maintain that social progression.”

Asked if a Kate Forbes victory could threaten a socially progressive taxation system, Matheson added: “I think it’s important that members ask themselves who is the candidate that can bring the party and the wider independence movement together. In my view, the best person equipped to do that is Humza Yousaf”.

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