Humza Yousaf's absence from key vote on gay marriage being 'dragged up' for political reasons, SNP leadership candidate says

One of three candidates vying to take over from Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the SNP says his absence from a key vote on gay marriage is being "dragged up" for political reasons.

Humza Yousaf told Sky News that his abstention from the final vote on equal marriage in Scotland in 2014 is being raised by "people who are supporting other candidates".

That "probably tells you the motivation behind it", he added.

Asked twice whether gay sex is a sin, Mr Yousaf, a practising Muslim who says he will be fasting during Ramadan, replied: "No."

He told Sophy Ridge on Sunday: "I believe that people's marriage, if they are gay, and they are married, that their marriage is no more inferior, or worth less, than my marriage as a heterosexual individual.

"So no, I don't subscribe to that view (that gay sex is a sin)."

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Regarding religious concerns about homosexuality, he said: "I can't change what's in scripture. What I can tell you is the approach I will take which is that I will not allow personal faith to be the basis of legislation."

Asked about his absence from the 2014 vote, Mr Yousaf said he attended a meeting to try to get a Scottish citizen, who was in Pakistan "on blasphemy", and who had been attacked on death row, back to Scotland.

He told Sky News: "There was a series of meetings taking place between myself and the Pakistani government to get this individual back home.

"One of those meetings was during the stage three vote.

"Let me be unequivocal about it - if I was there I would have voted for it. That was well known at the time."

But former minister Alex Neil has claimed Mr Yousaf's meeting could have been rearranged.

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One of Mr Yousaf's rivals, Kate Forbes, a practising Christian, has said she does not believe in sex outside marriage.

"In terms of my faith, my faith would say that sex is for marriage and that's the approach that I would practice," she told Sky News.

She also said transgender double rapist Isla Bryson "is a man" and she does not support making it easier for people aged 16 and 17 to change gender - something that was in the Scottish government's Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

That bill has been blocked by the UK government.

Mr Yousaf said: "I think Bryson is at it to be honest," adding he doesn't think they are a "true trans woman".

He added: "I think they're trying to play the system for personal advantage."

The third candidate is Ash Regan, who resigned in protest at Nicola Sturgeon's gender legislation.