KATE Forbes has said it is “highly, highly unlikely” that she would stand for the SNP leadership again if she loses next week despite her young age.

The 32-year-old Finance Secretary said she had given the bruising campaign "my all” and that the party’s membership knew who they were voting for.

Both Rishi Sunak and Anas Sarwar were rejected in leadership contests, but returned to helm the UK Conservatives and Scottish Labour respectively.

However Ms Forbes, who has been on maternity leave after the birth of her first child last August, made it clear that she would not be tempted by a comeback if her main rival Humza Yousaf won.

The Herald is only £1 for three months.
This offer ends Friday so click here and don't miss out!

She said: “I think this, for me, is probably the one opportunity. We need change in this election, and if we don't get change then I think it's going to be really challenging for the party in the future. I'll continue to support the party, but I think it unlikely that I would stand again.”

In an interview with the Herald, the Skye MSP also said she had been “amazed” at the “turmoil” in the party in recent days, and insisted she would work on Sundays as First Minister despite her strong Christian faith and membership of the Free Church of Scotland.

The next SNP leader and first minister will be named on Monday after a two- week ballot of 72,000 SNP members.

Besides feuding among the candidates - Ms Forbes, Mr Yousaf and Ash Regan - the race has seen rows over membership numbers and allegations of dirty tricks.

Holyrood media chief Murray Foote and Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, quit last week over the media being misled about declining membership numbers.

On Sunday, SNP president Michael Russell said the party was in a “tremendous mess” and that things had gone “spectacularly wrong” in the contest.

The next day Ms Sturgeon denied the party was in a mess, and insisted that she had left her successor a “brilliant foundation” on which to build. 

But Ms Forbes did not deny that the party had serious problems to address. 

READ MORE: SNP MP calls Kate Forbes a sex-obsessed religious fundamentalist

She said: “I do think that there has been turmoil over the last few days. 

"I am still somebody that's watching on from a level of being an outsider, quite amazed at what has unfolded. 

“I think there's a lot of members that are quite bemused, and some of them perhaps hurt as well at what’s happened.”

On Sunday, Ms Forbes appeared on two TV politics shows in pre-recorded interviews, fuelling speculation about whether she would be a full-time FM, or keep Sundays separate for faith reasons. 

She insisted that if she won she would be “present” as First Minister on Sundays, not least because emergencies and other events would require her attention, and she had a duty to respond.

She said: “If you think of a nurse, people don't stop getting ill on a Sunday. 

"So nurses in my family are working on Sundays. Doctors are working on Sundays and emergency responders are working on Sundays. I recognise that being First Minister is 24/7 [although] I don't think we should begrudge our politicians some time to be balanced and to recharge. 

“Emergencies happen on Sunday, and I'm available - I'm not just available, I'll be on the front foot when it comes to these issues. I had to do this during Covid. 

“There were decisions that had to be made on a Sunday during Covid, such as procuring PPE. It’s a 24/7 job.”

With the SNP showing signs of political mortality after 16 years in office, and the next leader facing tough general and Holyrood elections, Ms Forbes was asked if she would take a second bite at the leadership if she lost this time and a vacancy arose in a few years' time.

She said: “Whatever the outcome, I will be content. Because I'll either get to go back to a slightly more relaxed life as a new mum, or I'll be First Minister trying to make a difference for my daughter's generation growing up. 

"The outcome is going to be determined by SNP members, and I will abide by the outcome, and I'm quite relaxed about that.”

She went on: 

“I think it would be unlikely that I would come back in the future. I will continue to support the party and I'll support the leader, but I feel like I've made my campaign clear.

 “People know who they're voting for. It's up to members to determine which of us is First Minister, but I think it's unlikely that I would stand again. You can never say never, but I think it's highly, highly unlikely.”

READ MORE: Yousaf says Scotland subject to 'foreign government' at Westminster

Asked if she meant that she might not be an MSP when there was next a leadership vacancy, she said: “No, I just think it's highly unlikely.” 

Reminded the Tories had buyers’ remorse after electing Liz Truss as their leader last year and then turned back to Mr Sunak, Ms Forbes said: “I think it unlikely. I think whatever scenario you consider, I think my answer will be the same in terms of being unlikely.”

Ms Forbes also took issue with Mr Yousaf's plan for a taxpayer-funded legal challenge to undo the UK Government’s Section 35 veto imposed on Holyrood's Gender Recognition Reform bill (GRR).

He has said fighting the “power grab” is a matter of principle, and he would do ito as a First Minister who was also a "First Activist".

However that could mean going against the advice of the Lord Advocate - up to three times if the case was appealed all the way to the UK Supreme Court - which could prompt Dorothy Bain KC to quit.

Ms Forbes said that pushing ahead against legal advice would be “foolhardy on the basis that it's costly and on the basis that it won't get the result [Mr Yousaf wants]. 

"For me, court is always the last port of call, not the first, and legal advice matters. 

“It really matters for the public to have confidence in your decision making. And it matters for those who are most affected by this legislation, which is the trans community.

“The First Minister needs to be bound by the law and needs to be very carefully advised on the legal implications of all legislation.”