Incumbent on SNP to change after election defeat, says Kate Forbes

It is “incumbent” on the SNP to look at how it needs to change after suffering a significant defeat in the General Election, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister has said.

Kate Forbes said she does not believe there needs to be new a leadership but change is needed to ensure the party’s policy agenda matches the priorities of the public.

A disastrous election night for the SNP saw the party fall to nine MPs, down from 48 in 2019, losing all Scotland’s central belt.

Ms Forbes, who is also Scotland’s Economy Secretary, said it was an election for change and people were “desperate to get rid of the Tories”.

Asked if the SNP had identified what went wrong at the July 4 vote, she told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “It’s early days, but I think there’s a few things that are quite obvious.

“The first is that this was an election for change, and therefore it’s incumbent on us to look at how we need to change as well.

“Secondly, this was around regaining and earning, again, the trust of the Scottish people.

“So we need to look at why and how we didn’t inspire the number of voters to vote for us as we might have liked.”

Ms Forbes said she does not believe a new party leadership is needed but change is needed in other areas.

She said: “I do think it’s a change in ensuring our policy agenda matches the public’s priorities.

Kate Forbes looks on as First Minister speaks outside Bute House, Edinburgh
Kate Forbes and First Minister John Swinney (Jane Barlow/PA)

“I think it’s allowing (First Minister) John Swinney – who was only in post two weeks before the election was called, I think I was in post 10 days before it was called – allowing him to set out and deliver on his agenda of tackling poverty, of economic growth, of ensuring our public services are robust and resilient.

“And then perhaps the third one is, I’m a democrat and the secret ballot never lies, and therefore we need to take on board the message that the public have sent us in preparation for 2026.”

Ms Forbes was asked about comments by some in the party who believe the SNP campaign did not focus enough on independence, and the suggestion that independence is not a high priority for members of the public.

She said the SNP “won’t stop believing in an independent Scotland” and there is “no gap between independence and, for example, the cost-of-living crisis”.

The Deputy First Minister said: “I assume you saw the comments from the chief executive of the Octopus Energy Group who said that at times, if there was change to the energy market, Scotland could get free energy, the point there being if there was a change to powers that are within the gift of the UK Government and which they’ve chosen not to use, Scotland wouldn’t be facing the cost-of-living crisis it has.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The UK Government has been clear that GB Energy, headquartered in Scotland, is a priority. This will be transformational and work to cut energy bills and help to deal with the cost of living to bill payers. It will also help to create thousands of jobs and help deliver economic growth.”