KATE Forbes says she is "heartsore" about the hurt caused to friends by her comments on same-sex marriage and children born to unmarried parents. 

In a Twitter thread - published as First Minister's Questions got underway - the SNP leadership hopeful said she had "listened carefully" to the criticism. 

READ MORE: Swinney: SNP must consider if Forbes would be an 'appropriate' leader

The Finance Secretary - a member of the socially conservative Free Church of Scotland - has come in for criticism over her views on same-sex marriage, children born to unmarried parents, and issues around transgender women.

Ms Forbes was not a member of the Scottish Parliament when the equal law marriage was passed in early 2014 but has said that she would have voted no if she had been.

In another interview she said having children outside of marriage “would be wrong according to my faith.”

She also said she did not support self-identification for trans people.

"I believe that a trans woman is a biological male who identifies as a woman," she told one interview, prompting a formal internal complaint from the co-convenor of the SNP's LGBTQ+ wing.

READ MORE: Kate Forbes may have breached SNP rules on transphobia

The comments - particularly those on same-sex marriage - led to a number of her backers quitting the campaign, including employment minister Richard Lochhead, public finance minister Tom Arthur, and children’s minister Clare Haughey.

After a chaotic 48 hours, Ms Forbes took yesterday off in a bid to reset her campaign.

Taking to Twitter to address the criticism, she said: "This election is about independence, who is best equipped, and who has the best plan to achieve it. It is also about the society we want Scotland to be – where tolerance is the ruling ethic,  poverty becomes history, equality of opportunity is the birthright of every child.

"Over the last few days, questions have focused on my faith. I feel greatly burdened and heartsore that some of my responses to direct questions in the media have caused hurt to friends, colleagues and fellow citizens. That was never my intention, but I've listened carefully.

"I will protect the rights of everybody in Scotland, particularly minorities, to live and to love without fear or harassment in a pluralistic and tolerant society. I will uphold the laws that have been hard won, as a servant of democracy. 

"I will also seek to enhance the rights of everybody to live in a way which enables them to flourish. I firmly believe in the inherent dignity of each human being; that underpins all ethical and political decisions I make.

"I've represented my constituents for six years. In full knowledge of my faith, voters re-elected me with one of the biggest majorities in Scotland in 2021.

"That demonstrates that voters were comfortable knowing that I would serve them faithfully and without prejudice."

In a further statement on Facebook, Ms Forbes said it was "possible to be a person of faith and to defend others’ rights to have no faith or a different faith."

She also sought to move the conversation around her leadership campaign on to the constitution, writing that Scottish independence would be achieved by the "combination of good governance at Holyrood and the party members doing their job in the development of policy."

READ MORE: Catholic Church warns of damage to politics after attacks on Forbes

She said her leadership would do more to involve SNP activists.

"Those of us who are MSPs and MPs, are not the sole source of ideas. Being elected doesn’t mean we are intellectually superior to the ordinary party members, or know more than they do.

"The role of the party – its members – is crucial to our success. Our membership is large. Our members are in constant contact with their fellow citizens. They know, better than anyone, what motivates those who support independence, and what holds back others whose support we need.

"In short, they are in touch. Our members have experience and talent. Central to my plan is that they become more engaged in policymaking than ever before."

She said she would seek to create a "raft of policies that would be implemented from day one of independence."

"The party making policy through a number of key committees would not exclude ministers, MSPs and MPs, as they have much to contribute. But so have the ordinary members, and it is their hand on policy that I want.

"This is election is a moment in Scotland’s history in which our members have to make a momentous decision. Change but no change will not meet the needs of this time. Change to make a difference is what I am offering."

Ms Forbes is running against Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and former community safety minister Ash Regan for the leadership.