SNP leadership contender Kate Forbes ‘burdened’ by hurt caused by religious views but fights on in race

SNP leadership hopeful Kate Forbes has said she feels "greatly burdened" that some of her views have caused hurt.

The Scottish finance secretary plans to continue in the race to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as first minister following backlash over comments made during media appearances.

In an earlier interview with Sky News, Ms Forbes said having children outside of marriage would be "wrong" for her personally according to her faith and would be something she would "seek to avoid".

She also earlier admitted that she would have voted against gay marriage in Scotland at the time it was made legal almost a decade ago.

'I will uphold the laws that have been hard won'

Ms Forbes, who is a member of the Free Church of Scotland, took Wednesday off to regroup following the controversy and has now pledged to defend the rights of all Scots.

In a statement issued on social media, the MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch said: "I feel greatly burdened that some of my responses to questions in the media have caused hurt, which was never my intention as I sought to answer questions clearly.

"I will defend to the hilt the rights of everybody in Scotland, particularly minorities, to live and to love without fear or harassment in a pluralistic and tolerant society.

"I will uphold the laws that have been hard won, as a servant of democracy, and seek to enhance the rights of everybody to live in a way which enables them to flourish.

"I firmly believe in the inherent dignity of each human being; that underpins all ethical and political decisions I make."

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Ms Forbes said her constituents elected her in "full knowledge" of her religious views and are "comfortable" knowing she will "serve them faithfully and without prejudice".

She added: "It is possible to be a person of faith, and to defend others' rights to have no faith or a different faith."

Ms Forbes went on to outline key details on policy, which she vowed would see SNP party members become "more engaged in policymaking than ever before".

'Change to make a difference is what I am offering'

Ms Forbes said independence would be achieved by the combination of good governance at Holyrood and the party members doing their job in the development of policies that would "convince our nation that its future lies in being sovereign".

She added: "This election is a moment in Scotland's history in which our members have to make a momentous decision.

"Change but no change will not meet the needs of this time. Change to make a difference is what I am offering."

The search is currently on to find a new leader for Scotland's biggest party following Ms Sturgeon's surprise resignation announcement last week.

Ms Forbes is in the running against health secretary Humza Yousaf and former community safety minister Ash Regan.

Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Douglas Ross, took aim at Mr Yousaf at Holyrood on Thursday - mocking his clapping at an event and accusing the frontrunner to succeed Nicola Sturgeon of failing as health secretary.

Candidates have until Friday to secure 100 nominations from at least 20 local branches of the party to ensure their place on the ballot.

The SNP has said it will announce its new leader on 27 March.