KATE Forbes will this week unveil a major £800m plan to help cut household energy bills and ease the cost of living crisis as she resets her bid to become SNP leader and First Minister.

The Finance Secretary was regarded as the favourite to replace Nicola Sturgeon until a series of interviews about gay marriage and children being born outside of marriage sent her campaign into a tailspin.

But with a month left in the contest the MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch hopes she can get onto the front foot by setting out a series of major policy initiatives on education, the NHS and the economy.

To help Scots tackle the cost of living crisis she is proposing to use public funds generated by leasing rights for offshore wind development to reduce energy bills for Scots.

The Scottish Government raised around £800m through the ScotWind seabed lease deals last year - though critics say substantially more funds could have been generated. Similar schemes in the US and in England netted up to 18 times that for the public purse.

It is expected that under the scheme all households north of the Border will receive help with their fuel bills.

"Kate will outline the details of the plan in the coming days," a source close to her said.

"Next week is when she will start unveiling policy on the economy, on education and on health.

"On the cost of living crisis, she is suggesting using funds generated by the ScotWind to re-invest in cheaper energy bills."

Ms Forbes, 32, has overhauled her backroom operation with veteran political journalist Campbell Gunn, a former special advisor to Ms Sturgeon and her predecessor Alex Salmond, brought in to help smooth relations with the media, while Michelle Thomson, the MSP and former MP, replaces economy minister Ivan McKee as Ms Forbes' campaign manager.

"I am delighted to have the support of some very able and talented colleagues," Ms Forbes told the Herald on Sunday.

"This contest is about Scotland's future and who is the best leader. As such the in put of people with a sound grasp of policy and a track record of delivery is critical."

She is also expected to set out more details this week on how she would aim to combat poverty by growing the economy.

Easing regulations for businesses could potentially create further tensions with the Scottish Greens, the SNP's partners in government, with some in the smaller party predicting the end of the Bute House Agreement should Ms Forbes win the SNP race.

She faces Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and the former communities minister Ash Regan in the contest with the winner expected to be announced after the ballot closes on March 27. Around 100,000 members have a vote in the contest.

The first week of the race was marked by infighting with Ms Forbes, a devout member of the Free Church of Scotland, coming under attack from Mr Yousaf's allies. She faced calls to quit the race from activists in the party, while some MSPs withdrew their support over comments she made on her moral beliefs.

On Monday she told journalists she would not have voted for same sex marriage had she been an MSP in 2014 while in a television interview the next day she said having children outside of marriage “would be wrong according to my faith.”

Neither Ms Forbes nor Ms Regan support self-identification for transgender people and they have said they would not legally challenge the UK Government's veto on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, passed in Holyrood in December.

Mr Yousaf, who is seen as Ms Sturgeon’s favoured choice, has committed to a legal challenge over the UK Government's use of a Section 35 order from the Scotland Act to stop the legislation getting royal assent.

The Greens have made clear not pushing on with Ms Sturgeon's commitment to legal action against the UK would be a red line in terms of continuing in government.

The bitterness of the contest has dismayed some in the party's grassroots.

"The campaign so far has been a disgrace," said the party's former policy convener Chris Hanlon.

"I've lost count of the number of outright violations of the party's code of conduct I've seen and the relentless hounding of female candidates over issues that are either irrelevant or tangential to the core issues of a leadership campaign.

"Which are, will you follow the policy direction of the rest of the party and how do you plan to win independence?"

He said he had yet to decide who he would vote for though believed Ms Forbes' comments had been "blown ridiculously out of proportion" and that it was important for parties to offer free votes on conscience issues.

"I will say that I would be more inclined to vote for Kate if she were to reflect more carefully on freedom of religion. For her to be free to practice her faith the rest of us must agree not to try to impose our beliefs on her," he said.

"The flip side of that coin is that she has a duty not to try to impose her beliefs on others. I don't personally believe that is compatible with voting to restrict another person's human rights."

Another SNP member, who did not want be named, said: "I think at the moment I am Ash 1, Kate 2 and Humza 3. I definitely do not want Humza.

"I think there has been a rather orchestrated campaign against Kate, but equally she should have realised religion would be an issue that was going to be used against her."

Ms Forbes' will also continue to underline her experience in government and her reputation - even among some opposition MSPs - as a competent minister.

Mr Yousaf has faced repeatedly calls for his resignation by the Scottish Conservatives and Labour over his management of the NHS amid record waiting times and ongoing issues with delayed discharge.

In a newspaper article on Friday, Ms Forbes questioned the grip Mr Yousaf would have on the nation’s purse strings.

She said she was the “only candidate with a strong grip on the economy and our finances” amid the cost of living crisis.

A poll of SNP voters, published on Friday, suggested the race to replace Ms Sturgeon was tight. Research by Opinion Matters for the Big Partnership agency, carried out between Monday and Wednesday found that the highest number of SNP voters (31 per cent) have not yet decided who to back.

However, of those who had made up their minds, 28 per cent preferred Ms Forbes, putting her eight points ahead of Mr Yousaf, who was on 20 per cent, and comfortably clear of Ms Regan on 7 per cent.

When asked about the views and characteristics that are most important for a new First Minister, most SNP voters surveyed said that the most important asset was a plan to tackle the cost of living crisis (58 per cent), grow Scotland’s economy (53 per cent) and improve health, education and other public services (53 per cent).

Only 5 per cent of SNP voters thought that the new leader’s faith or personal beliefs were important. Not all SNP voters are members of the party, which means that the research is not an exact representation of those who will choose the next party leader.