The Scottish National party is preparing to announce later on Monday which candidate has won the bitterly contested battle to be Scotland’s next first minister.
Whoever wins may need to do deals with unionist parties if the power-sharing deal with the Greens collapses, the next first minister has been warned.
In a barely concealed challenge to Kate Forbes, the centre-right candidate vying to succeed Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Greens said: “Progressive politics and climate justice … must be at the heart of any vision for Scotland that we will support.”
Lorna Slater, the Scottish Greens’ co-leader, echoed her warnings on Saturday about the risks a Forbes premiership posed to the agreement and went further, stating that the Greens were considering what they would do if they joined the opposition ranks.
“We are, first and foremost, true to ourselves and committed to delivering change,” Slater said, in a statement to mark the close of the SNP contest. “We will put ourselves in the place where we can best achieve this. If that is in opposition to an SNP government that has lost its way and abandoned its commitments to cooperation, equality and environmental progress then so be it.”
The six-week campaign, the SNP’s first leadership contest for nearly 20 years, was triggered by Sturgeon’s shock decision in February to quit after more than eight years as party leader and first minister.
Sturgeon’s preferred candidate, Humza Yousaf, who has closely aligned himself to her policies, is widely tipped as the favourite and is the only candidate to firmly commit himself to upholding the Bute House power-sharing agreement brokered with the Greens.
The first cooperation deal signed by the SNP since taking power in 2007 gave ministerial seats to Slater and to her co-leader Patrick Harvie, and cemented a pro-independence majority at the Scottish parliament.
Soon after the result is announced, the new SNP leader is expected to call Harvie and Slater. The Greens will then convene a party council meeting on Monday to confirm what its next steps will be.
On Tuesday, the new SNP leader must win a vote at Holyrood to become Scotland’s first minister-elect. The king then confirms the leader’s appointment by letter, before the leader is sworn in by senior Scottish judges in Edinburgh on Wednesday morning.
Forbes has said she remains open to working with the Greens but said on Sunday she was relaxed about leading a minority SNP government. “It matters more to govern well, even as a minority, than it is to dance to the tune played by another party,” she told the Mail on Sunday.
Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, said none of the candidates would give Scotland the change and vision it needed. “Everyone agrees that the same old mediocrity, continuity and incompetence won’t cut it – but no one in this dire race has shown they’re up to the job,” he said.