KATE Forbes has said her campaign to replace Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader and First Minister is "absolutely not over", as a backlash over her equal marriage views has seen her support ebb away among MSPs.

The Finance Secretary said on Monday that her conscience would not have allowed her to vote in favour of same-sex marriage, which passed in Holyrood in 2014, if she had been an MSP at the time.

In the hours after her speech, a number of early supporters of her campaign among the party's MSP group withdrew their backing.

And former top SNP strategist Stephen Noon told the BBC last night her campaign had hit a serious problem and was "potentially in trouble" following her remarks.

He told the broadcaster that he had been minded to vote for her but was now reconsidering doing so.

READ MORE: Greens may exit SNP deal if Kate Forbes becomes FM prompting election

"I began the day leaning towards Kate Forbes but I have to say the events of the day have moved me a bit of a distance away from her," Mr Noon, pictured below, told BBC Scotland's The Nine.

The Herald:


Asked if she had set fire to her campaign on the same day it was launched, he replied: "I think Humza Yousaf is the happier of the two this evening. I think Kate now has a serious problem."

He later added: "I have a serious question over her and I think her campaign potentially is in trouble."

He said the debate over gender recognition reform differed from that over equal marriage as he believed in the former there was an issue over competing rights between transgender people and women.

Mr Noon said the next First Minister would have to be able to bring people around the table with different views which to date politicians had not been able to do.

"There is a difficult conversation to be had around gender recognition because I think we have to recognise the need for a simplier process for people to get their gender recognised but we also have to recognise the valid concerns of women," he said. 

"I think equal marriage is something very different. There was a time when I was opposed to equal marriage but I know that's wrong. I see the impact equal marriage has had on the gay community in Scotland and I think it's been transformational.

"I think it's one of the best things we've done as a parliament. So I was disappointed Kate Forbes was not able to recognise the really transformational effect for gay men and women that gay marriage has had."

SNP politicians who have withdrawn their support include: Public Finance Minister Tom Arthur; Minister for Children Clare Haughey; and Health Committee convener Gillian Martin.

Ms Forbes, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and former community safety minister Ash Regan are running to replace Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader and First Minister following her surprise resignation announcement last week.

The Finance Secretary, a member of the Free Church of Scotland, was asked on BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme if her campaign was over before it began.
She replied: "Absolutely not. We have a large party membership, most of whom are not on Twitter.

"I understand people have very strong views on these matters. I think the public are longing for politicians to answer straight questions with straight answers and that's certainly what I've tried to do in the media yesterday. That doesn't necessarily allow for much nuance.

"My position on these matters is that I will defend to the hilt everybody's rights in a pluralistic and tolerant society, to live and to love free of harassment and fear."
Ms Forbes later said she regrets the pain caused by her comments.

On Times Radio, she said: "I regret enormously the pain or hurt that has been caused because that was neither my intention, and I would seek forgiveness if that is how it's come across."

Ms Forbes added that she defends the rights of LGBT+ people to live "free of harassment, fear and prejudice".

Meanwhile, Mr Yousaf has said he will "always fight for the equal rights of others".
Asked what he thought of what Ms Forbes had to say on same-sex marriage, he told the Good Morning Scotland programme: "It's for her to defend her views, I've made my views very clear.

"I think my track record on equality issues speaks loud and clear.

"I'm a minority in this country, I have been my entire life and my rights don't exist in some kind of vacuum, my rights are interdependent on other people's rights and therefore I believe very firmly, in fact with every fibre in my being, that your equality is my equality, therefore I'll always fight for the equal rights of others regardless of who they are."

It comes after Mr Yousaf said in an interview with Andrew Marr on LBC on Monday that he would not legislate on the basis of his faith and is a supporter of equal marriage.

On Tuesday morning, Mr Arthur said he was no longer able to support Ms Forbes' campaign.

The minister tweeted: "Equal marriage is amongst our Parliament's greatest achievements and one that I would have been proud to vote for had I been an MSP when it was passed.

"Consequently, I am unable to continue to support Kate's campaign."

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin said she had wrestled with the issue overnight.

On Tuesday morning, she tweeted: "We must be full throated in our support of equal marriage. No if or buts. I won't be supporting Kate's campaign on that basis.
"I wish her well- she's extremely talented. But I have red lines. And this is one."

Ms Forbes has also said she would not have voted for the Scottish Government's controversial Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill in its current form.

As she was on maternity leave, she did not participate in the final vote before the new year but has been clear on her opposition since 2019.

Ms Regan is also opposed to the Scottish Government's gender recognition reforms, stepping down from her role as community safety minister to enable her to vote against the legislation last year.

Mr Yousaf has previously promised to stand by the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill and challenge the Section 35 order from the UK Government which seeks to block the legislation.

Speaking on the BBC, he described it as "an attempt by the UK government to undermine the democratic will of the Scottish parliament" and suggested Westminster was trying to "stoke a culture war."

He told interviewer Laura Maxwell: "It is the principle here that no UK government minister should be allowed to veto a piece of legislation passed by the majority of the Scottish parliament.

"So I respect the point that your were making, there are clearly people in society that disagree with the GRR bill, I'm not disagreeing with you on that point.

"My point is, whether you agree or disagree, the fundamental principle here is a piece of legislation passed by the majority of parliament which has a red pen put through it by the UK government on a whim and that is not acceptable regardless of whether you believe in the legislation and the substance of it or not."