ONE of the candidates in the SNP leadership contest has called for an end to “all the mudslinging” as an MSP warned the contest was becoming a “witch hunt”.

Ash Regan, who quit as a minister over gender reforms, put out "a call for calm”, and reminded colleagues they would have to work together after the race ended.

A third MSP said opponents of former frontrunner Kate Forbes were trying to “cancel her”.

The Scottish Tories said the call for a truce showed how “toxic” the splits had become.

It followed Ms Forbe being denounced after coming out against gay marriage and children being born out of wedlock this week.

She also said trans women are biological men, a possible breach of SNP rules, and said she would not defend the Gender Recognition Reform Bill vetoed by the UK Government.

A devout member of the Free Church of Scotland, her positions cost her the support of a number of MSPs, although trade minister Ivan McKee remains her campaign manager.

There were calls from within the SNP to suspend Ms Forbes and pleas from colleagues for her to quit the race, but the finance secretary appeared determined to carry on for now.

Ms Forbes, Ms Regan and Health Secretary Humza Yousaf are the declared candidates.

Ms Regan told STV news: “I just want to put out a call for calm. 

“I think that’s really important at the moment. Kate and Humza are really valued colleagues, they’re a really important part of the SNP. So I think all the mudslinging that’s been going on just now just needs to stop. Everyone needs to take a breath.

“We’ve all got to remember that we’re all going to be working together at the end of this.

“I want us all to come back together as a stronger SNP, and we’re all going to be working together for the betterment of Scotland.”

SNP MSP Christine Ms Grahame also told ITV Border: “Let me say this: I’m an atheist, I’m left-wing, I support GRR and I support equal marriage. 

“But I defend her [Ms Forbes’] right to have a conscience.

“And I think that to say things about her, because her religion gives her certain views which she doesn’t impose on anybody else, is absolutely wrong.

“I like a democratic society where everyone is entitled to express their conscience. 

“I’m probably the last person you would think would defend it, but there we are.

“As long as they’re not imposing these [views] on other people, and she has said she would not do that. What is concerning me is it’s a bit of a witch hunt.”

Perthshire MSP Jim Fairlie also defended Ms Forbes, despite disagreeing with her. 

He wrote on Twitter: “Folk have said for as long as I can remember that they want their politicians to be honest and have integrity when they have been asked questions. 

“If I am asked about my views on the issues of same sex marriage or a woman's right to choose, I will defend them unequivocally without hesitation.  I have two wonderful daughters, both born out of wedlock and both now adults with their own views. 

“On these points Kate Forbes and I fundamentally disagree, but what we both agree on is that we are both committed to defending those rights, therefore we must also defend the right of religious belief. 

“I completely understand that others do not share my view on this, but that is the beauty of living in a democracy, we are allowed to have different views and still maintain good relations.  However, some of the rhetoric around the fact that Kate has been honest has been appalling. 


“Some of the responses on my threads have been nothing short of abusive, where folk are demanding I uphold the virtue of tolerance, while being completely intolerant of Kate's right to religious belief. 

“The question I have asked myself over and over since this all started has been why? 

“Perhaps we will get the answers as this campaign develops. 

“I didn't support Kate for her religious beliefs, and I don't think her beliefs are in any way a danger to the LGBTQ community.  If they were, I would not only withdraw my support for her, I would condemn her lack of tolerance. 

“That is the main point for me, she has been totally honest in her beliefs despite how difficult it was making her campaign, while at the same time, defending the rights of others who are also trying to, in modern parlance, cancel her. 

“For me, due to that level of honesty and integrity, Kate has gone up even higher in my estimations and only helps to demonstrate that she is the right person to lead our party, and our country to independence.” 

Alo on Twitter, Glasgow North West SNP MP Carol Monaghan said it was “incredibly disappointing to see the continued targeting of Kate Forbes because of her faith”. 

She wrote: “How can we be a truly inclusive society when someone like Kate is told there are some positions that she cannot aspire to because she belongs to a minority faith community?

“Substitute a different faith into the comments about Kate online and the issue becomes clear: Kate cannot hold this position because she is Muslim. 

“Kate cannot hold this position because she is a Jew. 

“We are entering dark territory here with far too many people failing to recognise this. 

“It would have been easier for her to give the answer that people want to hear but she has maintained her integrity when pressed. 

“Having the courage to state and stand by her beliefs can only be a positive for the role of First Minister. 

“By embracing the different cultures, faiths, and ethnicities in our nation today, Scotland will be able to use the talents of all who wish to contribute. I look forward to our independent Scotland that welcomes people of all faiths and those of none.” 

Scottish Tory chair Craig Hoy said: “It’s a measure of just how split the SNP are, and how toxic the divisions are, that one of the candidates is already calling for a truce. We’re barely two days into this contest and the vicious backbiting is already in full swing.

 “We all knew there were bitter splits in the SNP, and that Nicola Sturgeon was constantly battling to keep a lid on them. But since she announced her resignation, all pretence of unity has evaporated and the contest to succeed her has quickly descended into the gutter.

“This all matters because those feuding are meant to be running the country.

“It’s clear the SNP are moving further and further away from the priorities of the Scottish people, while their warring factions disagree on everything except a shared desire to break up the UK.”