Has Kate Forbes, one of three candidates to be the next SNP leader, blown it? Er, yes, it looks like it. The campaign of the Scottish government’s finance secretary and rising star is losing support by the hour only a day after she entered the race.
Her crime? To have broken Alastair Campbell’s famous rebuke to Tony Blair during an interview when the PM was asked about the importance of his faith. “We Don’t do God,” said Campbell. “I’m sorry. We don’t do God.” If it were today, Campbell may have added “We Don’t Do Gender.”
But inevitably Forbes, a staunch member of the Free Church of Scotland, has been drawn into a political storm over her religious views on gay marriage, children outside marriage, whether a male rapist who wants to be a trans women is a man or a women, as well as the controversial Gender Recognition Bill.
At least Forbes is honest about her beliefs. When asked about her thoughts on gay marriage in a TV interview, Forbes explained that while she would have voted against gay marriage in Scotland at the time it was made legal almost a decade ago, she would honour the decision. Like Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, Forbes said she would have implemented the new law but privately voted with her conscience. You can’t be fairer than that.
More provocatively, she said it is unlikely that she would have voted for the Scottish government’s controversial gender legislation in its current form and does not support making it easier for 16 and 17-year-olds to change gender. However, others who campaigned against the bill suggest that even though Forbes was on maternity leave at the time, she could still have voted against it.
In another interview today which has caused yet more of a rumpus, the 32-year-old has also said that her faith means children outside of marriage is “wrong” and something she personally would “seek to avoid”. Yet Forbes, again, does not seek to proselytise about those who do have children outside marriage. ”But it doesn’t fuss me, it doesn’t put me up nor down. The choices that other people make is [up to them]. She added: “In terms of my faith, my faith would say that sex is for marriage and that’s the approach that I would practice.”
Unlike Nicola Sturgeon, who resigned last week, Forbes had no difficulty in describing the transgender double rapist Isla Bryson – or Adam Graham as he was known -“is a man”. What a relief.
So what now for the MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch? Is all lost because of her religious faith? Forbes says not. She says her campaign to replace Sturgeon is by no means over despite the backlash against some of her more conservative ideas and losing the support of three SNP ministers since making her remarks. They can hardly be surprised by Forbes’s views: she has never made any secret about being an active member of the Wee Frees as her church is known.
Forbes supporters say that while it might look as though her campaign is going up in flames, she has been let down by cowardly behaviour from SNP ministers who are more woke than their members. In contrast, Forbes supporters claim they have the backing of the grassroots SNP members who have been aghast at Sturgeon’s inability to say whether a rapist is a man or not. We’ll see. The Nat membership is pretty left wing these days.
It’s still early days: candidates need 100 nominations from party members from at least 20 of the party’s local branches. If there is more than one candidate, there will be an election in which all party members are eligible to vote.
It’s also being pointed out that Humza Yousaf, favourite of the hard-core progressive SNP to be leader, is also a devout Muslim which should mean that he too opposes gay marriage as well as children outside marriage. However, the health secretary was absent from the vote in 2014 although he did vote for it on the first reading. Make of that what you will. More interesting is whether Yousaf will be questioned and pestered in so much detail over his various views as Forbes has been subject to?
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