KATE Forbes, a frontrunner to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader, is preparing a plan to boost the Scottish economy as she draws up her leadership bid, it is being reported.

The Finance Secretary, a member of the Free Church of Scotland, has faced criticism from some figures on the socially liberal wing of her party. 

She is currently on maternity leave but sources close to her have said she is preparing a bid to focus on government doing less, better.

Former Scottish Government minister Marco Biagi said yesterday previous comments Ms Forbes had made on her opposition to abortion and refusal to say if she backed same sex marriage were enough for him to believe she was "unfit" to be First Minister.

There is also unease among the Scottish Greens, who are in a power sharing arrangement in Holyrood with the SNP, about maintaining their commitment to the Bute House Agreement if Ms Forbes became SNP leader and First Minister.

However, some in the SNP blame the partnership arrangement with the Greens for a recent dip in polling support and may be in favour of the relationship ending leaving the party to govern as a minority or to call a snap election.

Writing on Twitter today SNP MP Joanna Cherry, who is supporting Ash Regan for the top job, condemned the attacks on Ms Forbes and later suggested it might be time for the SNP to end the Bute House Agreement.

"I wish people would stop attacking Kate Forbes for her religious faith. She’s never shown any inclination to roll back rights as a matter of government policy.I don’t recall any fuss about Ian Blackford’s membership of the same church. It is rank misogyny."

Commenting on the Herald on Sunday's exclusive report that the Greens could end the deal with the SNP if Ms Forbes became SNP leader and First Minister, Ms Cherry tweeted: "They may not get the chance. The Bute House Agreement can be ended by either party. ⁦The SNP has governed very successfully before without an outright majority. Perhaps it’s time for the tail to stop wagging the dog."

Reports today said Ms Forbes intends to set out an agenda for economic growth to better support Scotland’s business community and, through a stronger tax base, tackle poverty and help to create a fairer society.

In a significant endorsement, Jim McColl, one of Scotland’s top business figures, told The Sunday Times that Ms Forbes was the best candidate to replace Ms Sturgeon, because she had a “moral compass”.

Mr McColl, who spent a decade serving as an economic adviser to |Ms Sturgeon and her predecessor, Alex Salmond, added that Ms Forbes was “probably the best choice the private sector has for leader”.

He said: “She can reach out to business and other people in Scotland to do what is best for our country. She could set standards for the government - and they are needed.”

His intervention may come as a surprise to Ms Forbes, who criticised his role in the saga over the construction of CalMac ferries at his Port Glasgow shipyard before nationalisation.

Another leading entrepreneur, Sir Tom Hunter, while stopping short of an endorsement, said Ms Sturgeon’s resignation was an opportunity for the Scottish Government to reset its relationship with the business community which had been ignored by the First Minister.

Allies of Ms Forbes believe that her expertise as Finance Secretary sets her apart from other leadership contenders, including Humza Yousaf, the Health Secretary, with a focus on how to help the economy and public services recover from unprecedented pressures.

In an echo of the former Labour first minister Jack McConnell’s “less, better” approach, a source close to her said: “We need to stop over promising and to focus ruthlessly on a smaller, more clearly defined set of priorities, and we need to improve the delivery of services to those that need them.”

Her approach to the economy could be another reason for the Greens leaving the Scottish Government if they were unable to sign up to a strong focus on economic growth, a move that would be welcomed by some in the SNP who feel the junior partners have been “a green tail wagging the yellow dog”.

Yesterday, Alister Jack, the Scottish secretary, urged the next First Minister to work constructively with the UK government for the benefit of people in Scotland. But he warned that the country would be “forever held back from that if one of Scotland’s two governments remains constantly distracted by political battles on independence”.

On independence, Ms Forbes wants the estimated 104,000 SNP members who have a vote in the leadership contest to be closely involved in developing an alternative to another independence referendum if the UK government continues to block a second vote.