KATE Forbes has rejected claims by Humza Yousaf’s team that she spurned a cabinet position to enjoy a better work-life balance, insisting that she wanted to remain as Finance Secretary.

In her first lengthy media interview since losing the contest to replace Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister, Ms Forbes said the Scottish Greens, the SNP’s partners in government, would be “pretty delighted” her leadership bid failed due to her views on maintaining a thriving rural economy.

Speaking to the Holyrood Sources podcast, Ms Forbes, the mother of a five-month-old baby, said she knew she had said “goodbye” to a better work-life balance when she decided to break her maternity leave to campaign for the leadership and a better future for her daughter.

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After her narrow defeat on Monday, she had hoped to resume her role as finance minister as it was a job she knew she “absolutely loved and could do well”.

Her remarks contradict comments from Shona Robison, the new Deputy First Minister and Ms Forbes’s replacement in the finance post, who said the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP told Mr Yousaf that she wanted to spend more time with her family.

In the same interview Ms Forbes said she plans to use her time out of government to do some "heavy thinking" about policy.

The Highland MSP turned down the rural affairs brief this week offered by First Minister Humza Yousaf after he narrowly defeated her in the SNP leadership race.
The offer was seen by some as an attempt to demote his former leadership rival.

Speaking for the first time since the First Minister's Cabinet appointments, Ms Forbes said: "I said during the contest that we're at a crossroads and I think we are.

"I think there's real merit in taking a period out of government to do some heavy thinking and some heavy lifting on policy, and where Scotland goes next and the nature of Scotland's economy and what the case for independence looks like.
"I will be thoroughly engaged in all of that."

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Speaking to the BBC's Sunday Show, one of Mr Yousaf's key supporters said the door remains open for Ms Forbes to return to the Government "when the time is right".

Neil Gray, who served as the First Minister's campaign manager in the SNP leadership race and is now the Wellbeing Economy Secretary, said: "Kate has had a very strong campaign.

"She is well respected, not just within the party but out-with it.

"She's going to continue to be an asset, not just for the SNP but for the independence movement, and the door is open to her to return to Cabinet when the time is right for her."

He said that the new First Minister always wanted another key ally, Shona Robison, to become the new leader’s deputy.

This, Mr Gray said, would also see her take on the finance role as “he wanted the finance elements to be with the deputy first minister”, effectively blocking the former finance secretary from her old job.

One of the key issues that may have caused the former finance secretary to turn down the job was that of highly protected marine areas (HPMAs), which could result in around 10 per cent of Scotland's fishing waters being closed off and are currently the subject of a Government consultation.

During the leadership campaign, Ms Forbes spoke out against such a policy, but she could have been tasked with implementing it had she taken on the rural affairs brief.

She told the podcast there was a "whole host of reasons" why she turned down the post, but added: "I think it's fair to say that after five weeks of a contest in which many things have been said, people would be looking to me to maintain integrity and obviously I would seek to support the Government in full while trying to hold to some of the positions that I'd expressed during the campaign around things like the HPMAs."

Ms Forbes drew ire during the campaign over her views on social issues, with some MSPs withdrawing their support following comments she made about things such as same-sex marriage.

The MSP said she would extend "the hand of friendship" to those who she may have clashed with during the campaign, but added it is a "two way street".

She also hit out at claims her economic platform was right-wing, saying the assertion - which was made by the now First Minister during the campaign - was "bizarre".
She added: "I think it genuinely was a bit of spin and smear to try and progress other candidates' prospects.

"There's nothing right-wing about wanting to take families out of poverty and it’s just a logical, rational position that in order to redistribute wealth, you absolutely must be able to create it in the first place.”

Asked if she is going to be a "loud backbencher", Ms Forbes said: "I am going to be myself, and I think if we've learned anything during the contest it's that I say what I think and I say what I mean."