SNP have media blackout as journalists banned from leadership hustings

Nicola Sturgeon announces she is to step down as SNP leader

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The SNP has come under fire for banning journalists from leadership hustings in the race to replace Nicola Sturgeon as party leader and Scottish First Minister. Nine events are set to take place in the coming weeks but no media will be allowed to attend in a bid to create a “safe space for members to ask questions of the three candidates”.

But the party’s decision to exclude the press from the hustings where leadership hopefuls will be grilled by SNP members has sparked criticism.

Scottish Conservative Chairman Craig Hoy said: “The SNP are desperate for their internal civil war to be conducted in private, rather than airing their dirty linen in public, which explains this cowardly and paranoid media blackout.

“This is nothing short of a disgrace when a new SNP leader – and ultimately First Minister – will be in place in just a few weeks’ time.

“The party have adopted a ‘nothing to see here’ attitude, when the public ultimately want to see the three candidates to replace Nicola Sturgeon properly scrutinised on their plans for Scotland.

“The SNP are famed for their lack of transparency but this really takes the biscuit. They have laughably said by excluding the media that these events will be a safe space for members. What do they think the media are going to do to them?

“This is a misguided decision that the SNP should rethink urgently.”

Scottish Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: “This is extraordinary. We are talking here not just about the next SNP leader but also Scotland’s next First Minister.

“Conservatives welcomed media to all our leadership hustings – what are the SNP afraid of?”

Fellow Scottish Conservative MSP Stephen Kerr added: “A party terrified that Scotland might learn just how crazy and out of touch they really are, once the curtains are lifted.”

Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow secretary for Scotland Ian Murray has written to the SNP calling on the party to open the hustings to journalists and broadcast them for the public.

Mr Murray said: “It is completely unacceptable that such an important contest can be conducted in secrecy, with the people of Scotland given no say whatsoever in choosing their next leader.

“The next First Minister of Scotland, whoever it may be, should not be chosen behind closed doors, too scared to face the scrutiny of the public.”

The media were given access to the Tory leadership race last summer when Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak were grilled by Conservative members at events up and down the country.

A spokesman for the SNP’s National Executive Committee said: “SNP members are the lifeblood of our party and our movement.

“It is the members who will be voting for the next leader of the party, so the SNP NEC has designed the party hustings as a safe space for members to ask questions of the three candidates.”

It comes as Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and former community safety minister Ash Regan are vying for the SNP leadership.

The winner of the contest will be announced on March 27.

The SNP has been contacted for comment.

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