Kate Forbes said she would have voted against gay marriage

SNP lead candidate Kate Forbes said she would have voted against gay marriage in Scotland at the time it was made legal almost a decade ago.

The finance secretary, one of the two frontrunners to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader and First Minister of Scotland, said in an interview that she would not have backed the legislation, but would have “respected and defended the democratic choice that was made”.

Equal marriage was made legal in Scotland in 2014 with an overwhelming majority of 105 votes to 18, while Ms Forbes was not elected to Holyrood until the 2016 election.

Talking to The Scotsman, Ms Forbes, who has been on maternity leave and away from frontline politics since early summer last year, said she would not have supported equal marriage as a “matter of conscience” if she had been a member of parliament at the time.

She cited the example of Angela Merkel as a leader who voted on the matter “with her conscience”, adding: “I think for me, Angela Merkel is the example I would follow, 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.

“But I would have respected and defended the democratic choice that was made.

“It is a legal right now and I am a servant of democracy, I am not a dictator.”

After giving her views on gay marriage, the Scottish Health Secretary and SNP leadership candidate Humza Yousaf said in an interview that he would not legislate on the basis of his faith.

Speaking on Tonight with Andrew Marr on LBC on Monday, Mr Yousaf said: “I’m a supporter of equal marriage.

“Let me get to the crux of the issue that you’re asking me. I’m a Muslim. I’m somebody who’s proud of my faith. I’ll be fasting during Ramadan in a few weeks’ time.

“But what I don’t do is, I don’t use my faith as a basis of legislation. What I do as a representative, as a leader, as a Member of the Scottish Parliament is my job is to bring forward policy and pursue it in the best interest of the country.”

Ms Forbes’ public views on equal marriage come after she said she would not have voted for the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill in its current form.

As she was on maternity leave, she did not participate in the final vote before the new year, but has been clear on her opposition since 2019.

She was one of 15 SNP politicians who publicly called on her party to delay the controversial proposals which make it easier for transgender people to self-identify as their chosen gender.

She told PA reporters: “My concerns about self-ID have been well documented and I would have continued to have those concerns about self-ID.

“It’s very difficult to talk hypothetically when it comes to a Bill but I think I would have struggled to support that self-ID element of the Gender Recognition Act.”

However, if she had voted against it, she would have been required to leave her position as Finance Secretary.

Ms Forbes also condemned the “illiberal discourse” around her faith and how her religious views could impact her decisions as First Minister.

She is a member of the Free Church of Scotland and had previously said her faith did not impact her ability to serve as an MSP.

She told PA: “It is quite an illiberal discourse. Because if we get into the territory of suggesting that anyone who holds public office is to be barred to people of faith, then it sends a very bad signal to the countless people of faith and no faith in Scotland today.”

Earlier, Ms Forbes committed to ensuring women are free from harassment and fear around abortion clinics following a plea from campaigners.

She said women should not “be subjected to fear and harassment” when attending clinics across the country.

It comes as campaigners Back Off Scotland wrote to Ms Forbes – and her opponents in the leadership race: Mr Yousaf and Ash Regan – to ask for support in implementing 150-metre safe access zones around hospitals administering abortions.

She told PA: “I would say that I certainly don’t think that women going for an abortion should be subjected to fear and harassment.

“And so, I’d be willing to work with Gillian Mackay who is introducing the Bill.”