KATE Forbes is to quit the Scottish Government after Humza Yousaf asked her to take a major demotion. 

It is understood the new First Minister urged his defeated rival to move from Finance Secretary to Rural Affairs. 

She refused and will now sit on the backbenchers. 

The snub from the First Minister comes just hours after he insisted he wanted Ms Forbes in his government. 

He told journalists: “I have said right throughout this campaign that Kate is exceptionally talented and of course, I’d want her to be part of my government.”

Mr Yousaf only narrowly defeated Ms Forbes in the contest, winning by 52 per cent to 48. 

Following his victory, he said he wanted to unite the party: "We are no longer team Humza, Ash or Kate, we are one team,” he promised.

"Where there are divisions to heal we must do so and do so quickly because we have a job to do and as a party we are at our strongest when we are united, and what unites is our shared goal of delivering."

However, former minister, Alex Neil, who backed Ms Forbes in the leadership contest, said the offer of Rural Affairs was an "insult and not a real effort to unite."

"A poor start," he added. 

One SNP MSP said they were disappointed at the development, which they put down to Ms Forbes seeing the Rural Affairs brief as a demotion. 

They told the Herald: “I’m surprised, and I think a lot of other people will be as well. To be honest, it doesn’t look good. 

“We were all hoping the ructions of the leadership contest were behind us, and that we could get everyone together again.. 

“I’m surprised and disappointed. I just want things to get operational again. The election went on an awful long time, and now this could keep the arguments going.”

Ms Forbes had been on maternity leave from her role as finance secretary since last July, however, but was back in Holyrood yesterday to vote for Mr Yousaf to be parliament’s nominee to be First Minister. 

At one point during proceedings, as votes were being validated, Mr Yousaf walked over to the Finance Secretary, who was sitting at the back of the chamber and hugged her.

Taking to Twitter after turning down the job, Ms Forbes said she had been "delighted to vote for Humza Yousaf to be First Minister today."

She added: "He has my full support, as he governs well & furthers the case for independence. I have full confidence he will appoint a talented Cabinet and Ministerial team, able to meet the challenges facing the country."

A source close to Ms Forbes said the job "might have limited her ability to operate with integrity and intent under collective responsibility" given the proximity of the Scottish Greens to the brief. 

Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy said Mr Yousaf had “poured petrol on the SNP civil war,” on his first day in the job. 

“Kate Forbes’ furious snub to his offer of a cabinet demotion shows his mission to reunite their feuding party is doomed to failure.

“It makes a mockery of his claim only yesterday that: ‘We are no longer team Humza, or team Ash, or team Kate, we are one team.’

“The reality is the SNP are divided from top to bottom. And, as they concentrate on knocking lumps out of each other, they are unable to focus on the real priorities of the Scottish people.”