THE SNP leadership contest timetable gives “enough leeway” for the next first minister to make a decision over whether or not to challenge the UK Government’s use of a Section 35 order, the FM’s official spokesperson said.

The SNP leadership contest is now fully underway, with candidates Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes, and Ash Regan confirming they each returned enough nominations from party members ahead of the final deadline on Friday.

Each candidate so far has had a different view on how to deal with the row with Scottish Secretary Alister Jack and his decision to stop Scotland’s gender reforms from being given royal assent and becoming law.

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The Scottish Government has a three-month period to launch a legal challenge against the move, but after Nicola Sturgeon’s shock resignation concerns were raised that the timetable for the leadership contest could put that in jeopardy.

Yousaf, the current Health Secretary, said he would “absolutely” challenge Westminster’s use of a Section 35 order.

Forbes, during a series of media rounds at the beginning of the week, said she had concerns about the self-ID element of the bill and would not challenge the Section 35 order in court because she doesn’t “believe that is in line with the public’s priorities”.

The National: Forbes said she would want a 'grown-up' conversation with the UK Government over Scotland's gender reformsForbes said she would want a 'grown-up' conversation with the UK Government over Scotland's gender reforms

The Finance Secretary, currently on maternity leave from her government role, added that she would want to have a “grown-up discussion” with the UK Government about the bill, and what changes could be made to allow them to sign off.

Regan, who quit Sturgeon’s government in protest against the reforms of which she has been an outspoken critic, said she would ditch the bill completely if she wins the contest. She was one of nine SNP MSP rebels who refused to back the legislation despite a government whip.

At the post-FMQs briefing in Holyrood, The National asked the First Minister’s spokesperson if work to prepare a legal challenge was still underway despite the SNP leadership contest.

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He confirmed that government officials have been tasked with the work with the leadership contest “in mind”, adding: “It’s being looked at.”

Asked to clarify if there was time for a decision to be made following the leadership contest, as there are clear policy differences between the three candidates on how to move forward, the spokesperson admitted there was a “relatively short window”.

However, he added that a mid-April deadline for the legal challenge would give whoever succeeds Sturgeon enough time to consider their options.

The spokesperson said: “Obviously, that would give enough leeway.”

However, he cautioned: “I’m not giving you an indication that there’s anything imminent on that.”

After the majority of the Scottish Parliament voted in favour of Scotland’s gender reforms before Christmas last year, Jack’s decision to block the bill was decried as an “attack on democracy and devolution”.