Voting in the SNP leadership election to choose Nicola Sturgeon’s replacement has opened as the race gathers pace.
Candidates Kate Forbes, Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan are running to become Scotland’s next first minister, following Sturgeon’s shock resignation last month.
Scottish National Party (SNP) members will choose between the finance secretary, health secretary and ex-communities minister in a single transferable vote (STV) ballot over the next fortnight.
Results will be announced after the vote closes at midday on March 27, with the new party leader taking office that day.
Members will rank candidates in order of preference, with the third placed person being eliminated if no single contender secures above 50 per cent of the first preference votes.
Sturgeon, who led the SNP since 2014, has indicated she will not back a successor.
But her deputy first minister John Swinney and SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn have both endorsed health minister Yousaf.
Top pollster John Curtice, politics professor at the University of Strathclyde, has said there is a “marked contrast” between the public and SNP members’ preferences on the winner.
He told BBC Radio Scotland polling of recent SNP voters or supporters was “pretty much evenly divided” between Yousaf and Forbes.
But he said: “If this election was being decided by the general public in Scotland, it seems pretty clear Kate Forbes would win.”
Forbes’ campaign struggled early on after her controversial views on same-sex marriage made headlines, while Yousaf has faced criticism for his record in government.
Regan, who quit her ministerial role last year over opposition to Sturgeon’s gender reforms, is seen as an outsider candidate, but has been backed by one of the SNP’s most well-known MPs, Joanna Cherry.
The three candidates have appeared in a series of leadership hustings and debates, including on Channel Four, and will take part in a debate on BBC One on March 14.