SNP leadership contest: Kate Forbes is head and shoulders above the other candidates – Christine Grahame
and live on Freeview channel 276
After the shock came the realisation that someone had to step in and fill those stilettoes. So now we are in the throes of a leadership contest and it’s not all been a pretty sight. Kate Forbes with utter, and one might say naïve, honesty as a member of the Free Kirk, which certainly her Cabinet colleagues knew, expressed her views on equal marriage and so on.
She was done over for answering a question directly, which I applaud, though it was articulated somewhat clumsily. Perhaps being on maternity leave for seven months and out of the political loop was part of that. Folk say they want honesty from their politicians but when they get it, well that’s a different matter. I don’t share her views but, as I’ve said before, I defend her right to them as I would a Muslim, Jew, or Hindu.
Two of the candidates, Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes, practice their religious beliefs. However, there is a world of difference between that and forcing them down everyone else’s throats. Neither of them has done that.
It’s also perfectly acceptable that a politician should be permitted to have the freedom to be excused from voting on an issue which conflicts so fundamentally with their beliefs. Humza was absent from the vote on the Equalities Bill and Kate was not even in parliament so the question of a conscience vote for them then does not arise.
But let’s be clear, what no First Minister can do is push through policies or legislation which neither their Cabinet nor the Parliament would support. It simply would not happen. Both have said they can and do separate their religious convictions from the legislative process and I believe them both.
I have omitted the third candidate, Ash Regan, because her religious or non-religious beliefs have not been made an issue. So, in considering who to support, as one member with one vote, I’ve assessed the capabilities of the two leading candidates, Kate and Humza, on the basis of which would make the better First Minster.
Both have talents which I have observed over many years from the backbenches but, without any doubt in my mind, Kate Forbes is head and shoulders above the rest of the field. Not only is she able, she is warm and personable. I believe she is respected across the Chamber.
Indeed opposition members have their fingers crossed she does not win as it is her skills they recognise and fear most. She handled a prime Cabinet post in finance and the economy for years, ultimately stepping in at an 11th hour to present a budget. I had my doubts how she would cope with this, the most important moment in the Parliament, but she did so with expertise and aplomb.
Why come out and say this? I see some Cabinet colleagues of Humza Yousaf lining up to support him but feel, as a backbencher with over 23 years’ experience and no hope, nor indeed intention, of seeking ministerial office, that my assessment is objective, and I hope fair.
Christine Grahame is SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale