Kate Forbes insists general election has come at 'very good moment' for SNP despite row over Michael Matheson

Kate Forbes has insisted the general election has come at a "very good moment" for the SNP despite the party facing a growing row over Michael Matheson.

The Deputy First Minister was speaking in Inverness today on the second full day of campaigning after Rishi Sunak this week confirmed voters will head to the polls on July 4.

She had yesterday introduced John Swinney at the SNP's first election event of the campaign where the party leader faced a barrage of questions about his former Cabinet colleague.

The First Minister faced a backlash after he refused to support a recommendation from Holyrood's standards committee that Matheson be suspended from parliament for 27 days.

The investigation was launched earlier this year after the parliament's corporate body ruled the Nationalist had broken the rules over an £11,000 expenses scandal.

Matheson had initially tried to claim for a huge data roaming bill racked up on his official iPad while on a family holiday in Morocco - before being forced to admit the cost was caused by his sons streaming football.

But Swinney attacked the standards committee's work as "prejudiced."

Forbes said today: "I won't comment on a live investigation, I think the First Minister has set out his concerns about the process when it comes to Michael Matheson.

"I think the election has come at a very good moment for the SNP. Over the last few weeks we've seen John Swinney's popularity increase - he's now the most popular leader anywhere in the UK, outstripping Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak."

A recent YouGov survey which found Swinney had a net favourability score of minus three with the public - meaning 35 per cent of voters have a favourable opinion of him, compared to 38 per cent who have an unfavourable opinion.

The same YouGov poll also found the Nationalists had dropped 10 points behind Labour when it came to Westminster voting intentions among Scots.

Forbes also questioned Labour's commitment to reduce energy bills if it won the election.

She told LBC: "The SNP has long called for a reduction in energy bills and we continue to be aghast at how high energy bills are in this country, putting enormous strain on families and businesses.

"The UK Government has had years to sort this issue out, and clearly it's still affecting people.

"I think the bigger question is what Labour intends to do around energy more generally, as they are putting 100,000 jobs at risk in the north-east."

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said today that candidates standing for the SNP at the General Election had been left in a “dreadful position” on the second day of campaigning.

He said: “The SNP must sack Michael Matheson from the party and U-turn on their pathetic attempt to overturn the sanctions he faces for misusing taxpayers’ money and lying to the press, public and Scottish Parliament. In any other line of work, Michael Matheson would have already lost his job.

“John Swinney’s shameful defence of this disgraced former health secretary has left his nationalist candidates in a dreadful position on day one of this campaign.”

To sign up to the Daily Record Politics newsletter, click here