SNP leadership race: Kate Forbes ‘sets fire’ to her bid with gay marriage comments
The Scottish finance secretary said she voted against gay marriage as a “matter of conscience”
LONDON — One of the early front-runners to replace Nicola Sturgeon at the top of the pro-independence Scottish National Party is fighting to stay in the race after stating her opposition to gay marriage.
Kate Forbes, the Scottish government’s highly-rated finance secretary, told journalists in the hours following her candidacy launch Monday that she would have voted against legalizing gay marriage “as a matter of conscience.” The bill legalizing same-sex marriage was passed by the Scottish parliament in 2014, two years before Forbes became a lawmaker.
Several key backers of Forbes — a devout Christian belonging to the socially conservative Free Church of Scotland — have since withdrawn their support.
One of her early supporters, the Employment Minister Richard Lochhead, said that the SNP “can’t have a party leader who’d vote against same-sex marriage.”
Defending her views Tuesday, Forbes told BBC Radio Scotland that the “public are longing for politicians to answer straight questions with straight answers.” She argued the row was taking place on Twitter rather than in real life.
While she was speaking on air, Tom Arthur — one of her junior ministers and early backers — tweeted withdrawing his support.
It comes less than 24 hours after Forbes announced her candidacy with the claim that she can “unite the party.” She joins the Sturgeon ally and Health Secretary Humza Yousaf along with former Community Safety Minister Ash Regan in the race for the top Scottish job.
But following her round of interviews Monday evening, Forbes’ bid appeared to already be in deep trouble.
“(Obviously) I’m not an in-depth student of the SNP membership, but I’m pretty sure that, with this, Kate Forbes has just set fire to her leadership campaign on the very same day as she launched it,” the former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said.