All three SNP leadership contenders refused to say which of their rivals would be the next-best leader.
When asked who they would encourage their supporters to return as a second choice, all three potential ministers refused to “play the game”.
Asked a question at the Inverness Courier leadership debate, moderator Nicky Marr said: “Only one of you can win.
“Who would you encourage your supporters to choose as their second choice in the SNP leadership vote?”
Despite the crowd’s positive reaction to the question, the candidates wasted no time in responding.
Health Minister Hamza Yusuf said: “You can press all you want, but I am telling my supporters to vote for me number one.
“They can choose who they want otherwise, if they want number two or three.”
Asked if he was “not playing”, Mr. Youssef said: “What do you mean not playing?
“People have a democratic choice to put number one or, if they want, to put number two or three. It’s up to them.”
When asked again if he would make a recommendation for the “who else” question, Mr. Youssef replied with a flat refusal.
Despite hinting that there was an overlap between her and Kate Forbes’ support base, Ash Reagan also refused to answer.
Ms Regan said: “Well, there are only three of us in this contest, so I hope the members will have a good idea by this point as to who they might want to vote for.
“I’ve seen some suggestions online that Kate and Ash supporters might rank each other first and second either way, but I can’t comment on that.”
Turning to Kate Forbes, Mrs. Marr asked: “Are you going to let me down too?”
Ms Forbes said: “I have loved and valued both of my colleagues.
“And I don’t play the game either.
“I think people should vote based on what they hear and I can’t blame whomever they choose.”
Ms. Regan and Mr. Yusef went on to explain why they decided not to take a stand.
Asked if the public could trust them to be honest if they could not answer that question, Ms Reagan said: “We are honest because we ask our supporters to vote us number one.
“I have not given any other instructions to anyone else.”
“We are not running for leadership to support other leadership candidates,” said Mr. Youssef.
We say to our members: ‘You choose’.
Vote for me, but if you don’t want to vote for me, make up your own mind.
“We will not tell you who to put in second place.”
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