Forbes confident about leadership win despite high-profile Yousaf backers

Kate Forbes has expressed her confidence at winning the SNP leadership contest despite high-profile SNP politicians backing her main rival, Humza Yousaf.

The Finance Secretary’s campaign hit the rocks last week as she received criticism for her views on equal marriage and children born out of wedlock.

Ms Forbes said she would not have voted to legalise same-sex marriage if she was in Holyrood for the 2014 vote, leading to Holyrood and Westminster backers to pull their support for her.

But during her official campaign launch at the Cairngorm Brewery in Aviemore, in the Highlands, Ms Forbes said she was the “competent” candidate with the best track record for the job of first minister.

She said: “What I am hearing from members is that they really want to hear answers on the questions about independence, about our economy and about our public services.

“And ultimately, that I think, will win the contest. The right plan with the right competent leader who has a track record of delivery.”

She added: “I am keen that we now talk about issues that SNP members are raising with me, which is the path to independence, dealing with the cost-of-living crisis and how we put our public services on a sustainable footing.

“I am the candidate with the track record of managing our economy.”

Scottish National Party leadership election
Kate Forbes has a go on the production line at the Cairngorm Brewery in Aviemore (Jane Barlow/PA)

So far Mr Yousaf, who is the Scottish Government Health Secretary, has the public endorsements of former SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford and the party’s current Westminster deputy, Mhairi Black, along with a raft of Holyrood ministers, including Shona Robison and Shirley-Anne Somerville.

It comes as Ms Forbes was directly criticised by Ms Black for her views on equal marriage.

She said she, and other party members, could not have faith in Ms Forbes’ leadership and accused her of “alienating swathes of the population”.

Ms Forbes, who is a member of the Free Church of Scotland, said she had felt “greatly burdened” by the hurt she had caused over her comments.

However, she said her efforts to unite the party around her cause would not fail despite the controversy over her views.

Following her statements, several high-profile figures within her own party came out to condemn Ms Forbes and revoked their support of her candidacy.

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.”

Speaking to the PA news agency on Monday, Mr Yousaf said the number of senior party members backing his bid for the leadership showed his campaign had “momentum”.

Despite the support from high ranking figures, Mr Yousaf remained behind Ms Forbes in two recent polls of party voters, but he rejected the possibility of a disconnect between the upper echelons of the SNP and its voter base.

“Ultimately, it will be SNP members who are the ones who’ll decide who’ll end up being party leader and indeed the next first minister,” he said.

“I’m not complacent by any stretch of the imagination, I’m going to work hard, I’m going to make sure I speak to as many members and as many activists as I can over these coming few weeks, because they’re the ones that will decide and that’s the only poll, really, that matters.”