Who is Kate Forbes? Defeated SNP leadership candidate to leave Scottish government

Who is Kate Forbes? Defeated SNP leadership candidate to leave Scottish government

Kate Forbes, who lost out to rival candidate Humza Yousaf in the Scottish National Party (SNP) leadership contest, is to leave the Scottish government.

The finance secretary was offered a move to rural affairs by the new First Minister but rejected this.

The position was widely seen as a demotion.

Results announced at midday on Monday, March 27 revealed that Mr Yousaf had won 52 per cent of the final vote against Ms Forbes’ 48 per cent.

Tweeting after the news broke, Ms Forbes did not confirm the job offer or rejection, instead saying Mr Yousaf had her “full support as he governs well [and] furthers the case for independence”.

She added: “I have full confidence he will appoint a talented Cabinet and Ministerial team, able to meet the challenges facing the country.”

SNP members had their pick of a trio of candidates to replace Nicola Sturgeon as leader — Ash Regan, Mr Yousaf, and Ms Forbes.

Ms Forbes last week told The Herald she feels this contest was “probably the one opportunity” for her to secure the role, although she said she would support the party whatever the outcome.

She initially risked destroying her leadership campaign on the day it was launched by saying she was against gay marriage. Ms Forbes made the declaration as she announced her candidacy to replace Ms Sturgeon, and said she would have opposed the equal marriage law passed by Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) in 2014.

Ms Forbes was not an MSP at the time the legislation passed through Holyrood.

“I would have voted, as a matter of conscience, along the lines of mainstream teaching in most major religions that marriage is between a man and a woman,” the devout Christian and member of the evangelical Free Church of Scotland told the Scotsman newspaper. “But I would have respected and defended the democratic choice that was made. It is legal right now and I am a servant of democracy, I am not a dictator.”

She added to Channel 4 News: “Marriage is between a man and a woman, that is what I practise, but I will not row back on rights that already exist in Scotland.”

So is Kate Forbes? Here is all you need to know.

Personal life

Ms Forbes was born in Dingwall in the north of Scotland and spent her childhood in Glasgow and India. Her parents travelled to the latter as missionaries when she was a baby.

She graduated from the University of Cambridge with a BA in history in 2011, before graduating from the University of Edinburgh with a master's degree in emigration and diaspora history.

She became a chartered accountant in 2013 after working for two years for her local MSP, Dave Thompson. Ms Forbes then worked for Barclays for two and a half years.

She married her husband, Alasdair MacLennan, in 2021 and is on maternity leave after giving birth to her first child, Naomi, in August.

Of her staunch religious beliefs, she told the BBC’s Nick Robinson last year: “To be straight, I believe in the person of Jesus Christ. I believe that he died for me, he saved me, and that my calling is to serve and to love him and to serve and love my neighbours with all my heart and soul and mind and strength.”

Her rise through Parliament

Ms Forbes was elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2016 as MSP for Skye, Lochaber, and Badenoch.

As a backbencher from 2016 to 2018, she served on the Scottish Parliament’s environment, climate change, and land reform committee; the standards, procedures, and public appointments committee; the health and sport committee; and the rural economy and connectivity committee.

Ms Forbes delivered the Scottish government’s budget in 2020 just hours after her predecessor Derek Mackay quit — the first woman to do so. She has served as Cabinet secretary for finance and the economy for three years.

The results of a poll carried out by Ipsos Scotland for Channel 4 News that was published in the Scotsman on March 9 found almost one in three respondents (32 per cent) thought Ms Forbes would be the best first minister of the three candidates. Meanwhile, 24 per cent chose Mr Yousaf and eight per cent were in favour of Ms Regan. Younger people tended to favour Mr Yousaf but over-55s leaned towards Ms Forbes.

Leadership competition

Aged only 32, Ms Forbes would have been the youngest ever SNP leader if she had won the leadership contest.

She annnounced in February 2023 her decision to enter the race with a tweet that said: “I am today launching my bid to become Scotland’s next first minister, with the vision, experience, and competence to inspire voters across Scotland.”

The current culture and external affairs secretary, Angus Robertson, was tipped as the early favourite to be the new Scottish leader. However, he ruled himself out of the race, saying that taking on the “huge commitment” wasn’t right for him and his family of two very young children.

Mr Yousaf was appointed to his role as health secretary in May 2021 and was the youngest MSP elected to the Scottish Parliament at the age of 26. Mr Yousaf is the first person from a minority ethnic background to hold the post of Scotland’s First Minister.