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Kate Forbes offers ‘hand of friendship’ to Humza Yousaf after Cabinet snub

Humza Yousaf hugs Kate Forbes during the vote for the new First Minister at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh - Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Humza Yousaf hugs Kate Forbes during the vote for the new First Minister at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh - Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Kate Forbes has offered “the hand of friendship” to Humza Yousaf but has said she does not know if it will be “reciprocated” after snubbing a place in his Cabinet.

The SNP is in turmoil after a bruising leadership contest to replace Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister, in which Ms Forbes, the former finance secretary, narrowly lost out to Mr Yousaf.

But when Mr Yousaf offered her a demoted role last week in his Cabinet as the Rural Affairs Secretary, she spurned the job and opted to return to Holyrood’s backbenches instead.

He then appointed what critics called “failed, continuity” loyalists to Cabinet, while ignoring allies of Ms Forbes for top ministerial jobs.

Appearing on the Holyrood Sources podcast, Ms Forbes said she was willing to draw a line under the acrimonious leadership contest.

“I’m very happy to pick up where I left it with friends and colleagues last summer,” she said.

But she added: “That’s always going to be a two-way street so it remains to be seen whether the hand of friendship that I offer is reciprocated.”

Fiery exchanges

The contest was marked by fiery exchanges, with Ms Forbes attacking Mr Yousaf’s record as a minister during a live TV debate.

Cross-examining him, she said: “You were a transport minister and the trains were never on time, when you were justice secretary the police were stretched to breaking point, and now as health minister we’ve got record high waiting times.

“What makes you think you can do a better job as First Minister?”

In return, Mr Yousaf raised comments made by Ms Forbes earlier in the campaign when she said she would not have voted for same-sex marriage if she had been an MSP when the legislation was passed.

Mr Yousaf said that “many people, particularly from our LGBTQ community, say they wouldn’t vote for independence" as a result of this, adding, “forget persuading No voters, you can’t even keep Yes voters.”

On Saturday, Mr Yousaf pledged to ensure “transparency” in the SNP’s affairs, saying the party had “lessons to learn” over some issues, including the question of membership numbers.

During the leadership campaign it came to light that the party had lost some 30,000 members in little over a year, even though the party had initially rubbished reports its membership had fallen by this much.