A TORY peer described Kate Forbes as a “sensible and talented” politician as he compared Ash Regan to “Alice in Wonderland” and called Humza Yousaf the “calamity candidate”.

It comes after Yousaf swiped back at Forbes’s accusations of “mediocrity” within the SNP as the Health Secretary set out a commitment to the party’s coalition deal with the Scottish Greens at the latest leadership hustings.

Opposition politicians were left claiming the SNP was “openly at war with itself” following the first live TV debate.

Speaking on BBC Debate Night, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for Scotland Malcolm Offord was asked which of the three candidates was best placed to succeed Nicola Sturgeon.

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He said: “If you took Humza, they call him the continuity candidate, I’d call him the calamity candidate because every department he’s run has been a bit of a disaster.

“If you take Ash Regan, she’s new to politics, but she’s sort of Alice in Wonderland, she doesn’t really understand economics, she wants to ditch sterling which is the whole reason we can get through this crisis.”

The Tory peer added a new currency would cause “economic misery” for everyone. Regan, Yousaf and Forbes are all set to go head to head again on Thursday evening in a live debate on Channel 4.

Offord added: “And then you’ve got Kate Forbes and she’s the most talented of them all, and she’s the one that understands business and she would actually drive a pro-business agenda.

“And what has she said? She said that we have to earn the right for independence by creating prosperity in Scotland. That could be 10, 15 years away.

“Now we could work with Kate Forbes, she’s a sensible, talented politician.”

Offord said he was “surprised” the Finance Secretary had put herself forward to be leader of the SNP given she has recently had a baby but that he “admired” her nonetheless for bidding to replace Nicola Sturgeon.

“I won’t endorse any of the candidates, I’m just making an observation. If I was a nationalist, I’d be very disturbed”, he added.

Offord was then asked if saying the UK Government could work with Forbes meant he was worried with working about Regan or Yousaf, he said: “I think because when she was Finance Secretary, we had some correspondence, the UK Government and the Scottish Government have to work effectively with Kate Forbes.”

He then said “yes” when asked if he was worried about working with Yousaf or Regan.