Kate Forbes has attempted to move on the debate around her views on equalities as she insisted that SNP members are “desperate for a leadership contest that focuses on the issues”.

The Finance Secretary endured a bruising start to her campaign to become the next first minister after she faced a backlash after saying that she would not support equal marriage and then added that having children out of marriage was “wrong”.

But despite SNP politicians pulling support for her over her religious views, Ms Forbes has stressed that the public care more about key policy issues instead of her personal views on equalities.

Read more: Kate Forbes insists her 'competence' puts her above SNP leader rivals

The Highland MSP was asked by journalists whether she would support same-sex couples being able to adopt and foster children and confirmed it is something she backs.

She said: “I believe so strongly in the need to increase adoption and increase fostering and I would support any families who sought to adopt or to foster.

“If anything, I think right now, there's far too many kids in the care system and far too few foster parents ready to adopt.”

Ms Forbes confirmed she would support any legislation allowing any couple to adopt or foster children.

She said: “I would support all efforts to increase the numbers of adoption and fostering.

“I also think we need to look at things like the payments that are made to foster parents, which is an issue that's been raised regularly in the Highlands.

Read more: Kate Forbes: SNP must stop anti-business attitude amid DRS 'carnage'

“And if you want to look beyond just my rhetoric campaign, I ran in the Highlands a few years ago on foster care.”

Asked whether the backlash to her views on social issues like equal marriage had jeopardised her ability to unify the party around her cause, she said: “Not at all.

"I’m keen to talk to all SNP members because it’s in talking and listening that we actually hear what matters to people.

“Right now, there are families in Scotland who don’t know how they are going to pay next month’s energy bills.

“There are businesses who don’t know how they’re going to cope with the wave after wave of economic challenges that they are facing.

“They are desperate for a leadership contest that focuses on the issues that they care about and they want to see a competent leader who will stand up for their interests and actually deliver.”